As climate change forecasters predict a future of extreme rain, international scientists are reaching Meghalaya's remote slopes near Bangladesh to study its ‘extraordinary’ monsoon first-hand.
They are setting up their own rain gauges since its mountainous outposts that are first hit by the monsoon have no reliable rain records.
“Meghalaya has one of the world’s highest rainfall that affects even Nepal and Bangladesh, with floods,” Taiichi Hayashi, scientist at the Disaster Prevention Research Institute, Kyoto, told HT. “This extraordinary phenomenon should be explained with precise observations.”
Since last year, a Shillong-Kyoto team has installed automated rain gauges from Japan for hourly rain recordings at villages including Mawsynram near Cherrapunji, which once held the wettest title. Hayashi will visit India often this year to maintain instruments and discuss collaborations with institutes like the Indian Institute of Science.
“Scientists are coming here to understand extremes anticipated with climate change, since there are few global studies on extreme rain,” said Hayashi's collaborator, geography professor Surendra Singh at the North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong. “This data will also yield surprises about the world's wettest place.”
Rain gauges will next be installed on Meghalaya’s north slopes. “Our observations will reveal new facts,” Hayashi said. Recently they installed weather instruments at Cherrapunji, which has a separate India Meteorology
Department (IMD) station. Researchers from the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, have also joined Singh’s team to study rainfall fluctuations and restoration of the rain-battered ecology.
But the IMD technology remains outdated, even in Mawsynram, one of the world's wettest places. Every morning, a public works department peon measures a pitcher of rainwater in a hole on a cloudy mountaintop facing Bangladesh. A board near the quaint manual rain gauge declares Mawsynram the Wettest Place on Earth. He measures rain only once daily instead of the thrice a day norm. The US National Climatic Data Centre, lists Mawsynram second after Lloro, Colombia, in annual rainfall extremes.