The southwest monsoon seems to have picked up in the nick of time, just when it was thought that the rain deficit in June would be over 40 per cent signalling drought and water levels in dams threatened to plummet below 10 per cent for the first time in one-and-a-half decades.
There was alarm as the rain tapered over the last eight days since June 12. On June 19, the average rainfall deficit was an ominous 41 per cent across the state; Thiruvananthapuram was the only district that saw normal rains and the rest had a deficit ranging from 20 to nearly 60 per cent. 2014 was the last time there was a June monsoon deficit of just over 41 per cent. Then, there was drought.
Now, thanks to the formation of monsoon systems on either side of the Indian peninsula, the southwest monsoon has started to rev up. In a day, the deficit for the state has fallen to less than 38 per cent. On June 19, the state witnessed near normal rainfall, 200 mm. June 20 saw above normal rainfall, 27 mm in the place of 22 mm.
Heavy to very heavy rainfall is predicted from Alappuzha upwards, places that were relatively untouched by the monsoon in its first active cycle this season.
At the start of the season, cyclonic storm Vayu emerged so powerful as to neutralise all potent monsoon systems. Vayu has now lost steam, almost fully dissipated, and the traditional monsoon formations have assembled over their traditionally marked areas. Satellite images show low pressure formations over over Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea, and also the dominant monsoon trough along the west coast of India, all of which are necessary for a healthy monsoon.
“This suggests that the spread of the monsoon will be even. The low pressure over Bay of Bengal will pull the southwesterly winds towards the western ghats and cause typical orographic rains (caused when the moist winds deflect upwards from the face of a mountain),” a top IMD official said. Till now, the rains were caused by the cyclonic storm off the western coast and therefore was mostly limited to the coastal areas.
The revival of the southwesterly could not have come at a better time for the power sector, too. On June 19, the average water storage in the state's dams was just 12 per cent; the storage in the state's most important dam, Idukki, was 15 per cent. The intense summer had forced KSEB to over-exert its dams in the hope that the monsoon rains will compensate for the summer losses.
The sluggish start, therefore, was a matter of concern. “Such precipitous fall in water level during June happens very rarely,” said Sijo Jose, the chief engineer in charge of generation. In 2002, the water level had fallen to six per cent. Even earlier, in 1984, it had dropped to five per cent.
Panic would have set in had the monsoon remained sluggish.