This year, Mahabaleshwar recorded its driest June and July — the first two months of the Southwest Monsoon — in five decades. In the last two months, the hill station in Satara district has recorded 1,922.8 mm rain, which is 40 per cent below normal for this time of the year.
This is also the only year since 1970 when the cumulative rainfall in June and July in the area is below 2,000 mm.
Considered among the wettest areas in Maharashtra – due to its orographic conditions – Mahabaleshwar’s annual rainfall is nearly 5,710 mm. Most of the rainfall takes place between June and September, amounting to nearly 5,530.1 mm, making it a tourist hotspot in the rainy season.
This year’s rainfall trend, however, has been a departure from normal so far.
During 2018 and 2019 monsoons, the rain recorded by mid-August in the area had surpassed that of Cherrapunji in Meghalaya, which is one of the world’s wettest places.
This year, rainfall in June was 716 mm, against a normal of 897 mm. The rainfall deficit grew further in July, when Mahabaleshwar recorded 1,206.8 mm of rain against its normal quota of 3,182 mm.
Explaining the deficit this year, J R Kulkarni, former scientist at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, said, “The monsoon winds were not strong enough to cross over the Western Ghats. As a result, there was little rainfall over Satara and Mahabaleshwar in July.”
Satara district ended up remaining 28 per cent short of normal rainfall, as on July 31. The reduced rain has also hit water stock in dams, and the live water storage in Koyana dam is only 47 per cent, as many rivers along the Krishna basin are yet to be flooded this season.
Moreover, large parts of Madhya Maharashtra experienced prolonged dry spells in July. According to meteorologists, this was due to lack of favourable weather systems formed in the Bay of Bengal last month.
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