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The 2018 Kerala floods: a climate change perspective

Hunt, K. M. R. and Menon, A. (2020) The 2018 Kerala floods: a climate change perspective. Climate Dynamics, 54. pp. 2433-2446. ISSN 0930-7575

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s00382-020-05123-7


In August 2018, the Indian state of Kerala received an extended period of very heavy rainfall as a result of a low-pressure system near the beginning of the month being followed several days later by a monsoon depression. The resulting floods killed over 400 people and displaced a million more. Here, a high resolution setup (4 km) of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model is used in conjunction with a hydrological model (WRF-Hydro, run at 125 m resolution) to explore the circumstances that caused the floods. In addition to a control experiment, two additional experiments are performed by perturbing the boundary conditions to simulate the event in pre-industrial and RCP8.5 background climates. Modelled rainfall closely matched observations over the study period, and it is found that this would this would have been about 18% heavier in the pre-industrial due to recent weakening of monsoon low-pressure systems, but would be 36% heavier in an RCP8.5 climate due to moistening of the tropical troposphere. Modelled river streamflow responds accordingly: it is shown the six major reservoirs that serve the state would have needed to have 34% more capacity to handle the heavy rainfall, and 43% had the deluge been amplified by an RCP8.5 climate. It is further shown that this future climate would have significantly extended the southern boundary of the flooding. Thus it is concluded that while climate change to date may well have mitigated the impacts of the flooding, future climate change would likely exacerbate them.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:88526


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