Published On: Sat, Feb 18th, 2023

Munnar experiencing rare weather pattern as mercury dips to sub-zero levels again

A wilted tea plantation at Chenduvara, near Munnar, in Idukki on Saturday morning.

A wilted tea plantation at Chenduvara, near Munnar, in Idukki on Saturday morning.

After a one-month gap, the mercury dipped to sub-zero levels again at the hill station of Munnar in Idukki on Saturday. The month’s lowest temperature of -1° Celsius was recorded on Saturday morning at Chenduvarai and Silent Valley.

As per data from the United Planters Association of South India (UPASI) tea research foundation, the temperature recorded at Letchmi estate was 0° Celsius, Sevenmalai 0° Celsius, Munnar UPASI 1° Celsius and Devikulam R&D 3° Celsius on Saturday morning.

According to sources, sub-zero temperatures have been once again recorded at the hill station after a gap of nearly one month. The temperature last dipped to -2° Celsius on January 20.

The hill station has been experiencing chilly weather for the past three days. The minimum temperature recorded on Thursday was 0° Celsius at Seven Malai and Letchmi estate. On Friday, the lowest temperature was 0° Celsius at Letchmi estate. “Sub-zero temperatures are expected to continue in the coming days too,” said the sources.

Climatologist Gopakumar Cholayil told The Hindu that after 2019, the hill station is experiencing sub-zero temperatures this year. “After the second week of February, temperatures in Munnar typically show a rising trend. But the continuing chilly weather is an unpredictable winter pattern,” he said.

“The continuation of sub-zero temperatures in the second week of the month will provide a push to the tourism sector. But, on the other side, it will badly affect thermo-sensitive crops and plants. In Munnar, it affects tea, vegetables, fruits and other crops,” pointed out Mr. Cholayil.

A study titled ‘Climate change and cropping systems across the high ranges of Kerala’ by G.S.L.H.V. Prasada Rao and Gopakumar Cholayil under Kerala Agricultural University pointed out that: “widening of the temperature range (increasing day temperatures and declining night temperatures) is likely to impact thermosensitive crops such as coffee, tea, cardamom, cocoa and black pepper which are grown across the high ranges of Kerala.”

The unexpected frost has adversely affected tea plantations across Munnar. According to Kannan Devan Hills Plantations (KDHP) Company sources, tea leaves have largely wilted at various estates due to frost. “As much as 550 hectares of tea plantations were affected in January and February this year. After 2014, a huge amount of tea leaves wilted due to frost under the KDHP plantations in Munnar this year. A large amount of tea leaves wilting would affect tea production next season,” said a source.

According to climate experts, in February 2019, Munnar experienced a long winter, with the mercury dipping to sub-zero levels. Winter season in Munnar hill station normally begins in November, with extreme cold experienced in the first week of January. Usually, in the first week of January, the valleys and hills get covered with frost.

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