When southwest monsoon clouds hit Maharashtra over the Mahabaleshwar plateau next June, they will bring more than just rain.
In an effort to understand the possible impact of climate change on rainfall, the Centre for Climate Change Research at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, is setting up a High Altitude Cloud Physics Laboratory at Mahabaleshwar — 4,770 ft above mean sea level.
The laboratory will study the clouds and their complex interactions with aerosol particles to understand the erratic
monsoon pattern across the state.
Aerosols are extremely fine liquid droplets or solid particles that remain suspended in the air like fog or smoke.
Data collected from the proposed observatory and its analysis will help in enhancing the understanding and effects of aerosol-cloud interactions, considered the largest uncertainty of climate change.
Mahabaleshwar was chosen as the ideal place because it is situated at 4,735 ft where clouds during the monsoon touch the ground.
The observatory, expected to be operational by June 2011, will study the interaction of clouds with both natural and man-made aerosols.
An example of natural aerosols will be sea salt particles that get thrown up into the atmosphere when ocean waves break; while man-made aerosols are those emitted from vehicles and industries.
When more aerosols are released into the atmosphere, small water droplets are formed. This small size of water droplets inhibits precipitation-forming mechanisms for rainfall; resulting in less rain.
“For good rainfall, water droplets need to grow and reach a threshold diameter,” said G Pandithurai, climate scientist in-charge of the project.
Natural aerosols do not affect rainfall mechanisms but man-made ones do.
While a proposal for the laboratory is pending with the state government, the institute has started procuring instruments that will be installed on a 35 ft high platform.
Pandithurai said that the observatory would also record pre-monsoon and post-monsoon data through remote sensing method.
“During non-monsoon season, our long term plan is to mount the instruments on un-manned aerial vehicles and record information,” Pandithurai added.