The New Year has left Kerala in the grip of a cold wave with Munnar bearing the brunt as temperatures at the hill station dipped to sub-zero levels.
"After the Kerala floods, the effects of climate change appear to be kicking in here and Munnar is one of the most affected places. Earlier, the winter season used to be in the months of November and December, but now it has shifted to January," said Senthil Kumar, a native of Munnar, which is slowly recovering from the impacts of two disasters – the Kerala floods and Cyclone Gaja.
On Saturday, the temperature at the hills and tea plantations around Munnar dipped to -3 degrees Celsius. Chenduvara, Chittuvara and Lakkad areas recorded -3 degrees Celsius, while Munnar town recorded -1 degrees Celsius.
"Usually I go to the office at 8 am but now because of the extreme cold weather I leave only at 10 am," added Senthil. The cold wave in the state started on January 1 with the retreat of the northeast monsoon from south India.
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"It is very common to see high pressure dominating the Indian peninsula during the months of January and February. At the same time, the Northeast monsoon has ceased completely since the new year and there is no moisture content in the atmosphere. With the absence of moisture, humidity and cloud cover, any heat that comes in is radiated back, leading to low temperatures all over south India," said Pradeep John, weatherman, Tamil Nadu.
On January 6th and 7th, the maximum and minimum temperatures across Kerala showed a noticeable deviation. The maximum temperatures were between 30 and 33 degrees Celsius and the minimum varied from 18 to 25 degrees Celsius.
"For the last few days, Pathanamthitta district has seen a sudden fall in temperature. Because of the cold weather, I feel like I am in Ooty now. I have not seen such weather in the month of January. We have to wear jackets while going out. It's 9:30 am but the weather outside is still very cold. I have never seen climate change at this scale," said Akhil Lal VM, a native of Pathanamthitta.
Several districts, especially Kottayam, Pathanamthitta and Idukki, experienced temperatures ranging from 17 to 20 degrees Celsius. This is a rare phenomenon in Kerala, at least in the recent past.
"Last year, at this time, the temperature was 7 degrees Celsius in Munnar, but this time it has come down to -3 degrees Celsius. We are literally experiencing climate change now," said Abin from Munnar.
According to weather experts, the chilly weather will continue for some more days across South India. The recent dip in the mercury has seen Kerala hit the lowest minimum temperature in at least three decades.
"The impact of global warming may be the reason for this sudden dip in temperature. If such unexpected weather conditions continue, we can expect a warmer summer in Palakkad," said Amrita, a resident of Palakkad.