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. Wet Desert Of India Drying Out

The local weather department recorded the decrease in rainfall in the last two monsoons at closer to 30 percent, with the area getting 8.7 metres during the 2006 monsoon, according to deputy director general D. Chakraborty. The reduced rainfall has caused water scarcity and electricity shortages in the hydroelectricity-dependent state. Although local factors have led to some of the environmental problems the area faces -- such as more erosion during the wet years because of deforestation -- the scientists are pointing to global causes for the fluctuation in rain.
by Raymond Raplang Kharmujai
Shillong, India (AFP) March 03, 2007
Rainfall in the unique "wet desert" of India's northeast has become unpredictable and the dry season longer in a disturbing sign of major changes in global weather patterns, scientists say. Cherrapunji, in northeast India's tiny Meghalaya state, has long been a top contender for the world's wettest spot, with approximately 12 metres (40 feet) of rainfall annually, most of it in the summer monsoon season.

But a group of Polish and Indian scientists who have been studying the unusual ecosystem -- it falls on a latitude known for some of the world's driest areas, including the Sahara and Gobi deserts -- said that was changing.

Rainfall steadily lessened in the last half of the 20th century, they said.

At the same time, fluctuations increased, meaning the wet years were frequently wetter and the dry years dryer.

"We took data from 1851 to 2001, almost 150 years of data," Surendra Singh, a geographer with the North-Eastern Hill University in Meghalaya state capital Shillong, 50 kilometres (31 miles) north of Cherrapunji, told AFP this week.

Singh and another Indian geographer, Hiambok J. Syiemlieh, worked closely with three scientists from the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw as part of a scientific research cooperation program between the two countries.

"There is a decreasing (rainfall) tendency" throughout the century which accelerated in the second half of the period under study, the geographer told AFP.

The monsoon clouds that rupture when they hit Cherrapunji, located on the southern spur of a steep plateau between the Bay of Bengal to the south and the Himalayan mountains to the north, are shedding less water here, he said.

"In 2005, rain was 25 percent less in Cherrapunji. For 2006 we are calculating but it is below normal," said Singh.

"Fluctuation in the rainfall pattern is increasing over time, and it is increasing too much."

The local weather department recorded the decrease in rainfall in the last two monsoons at closer to 30 percent, with the area getting 8.7 metres during the 2006 monsoon, according to deputy director general D. Chakraborty.

The reduced rainfall has caused water scarcity and electricity shortages in the hydroelectricity-dependent state.

Although local factors have led to some of the environmental problems the area faces -- such as more erosion during the wet years because of deforestation -- the scientists are pointing to global causes for the fluctuation in rain.

"Fluctuation is not influenced by local factors, it is related to climate. The climate of the entire country is changing," Singh told AFP.

"The entire pattern of rain and the intensity of rain is changing," he added, pointing to the unusual amount of rainfall and floods last year in the usually parched western desert state of Rajasthan, on the same latitude.

"The direction of the monsoon, how it moves and where and when it moves" was different, Singh said.

"Global warming is the overall factor and not only in Cherrapunji or India, but now throughout the world."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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