Even as Kerala is experiencing extreme climatic changes and hot weather all over the state, the hill station of Munnar saw unexpected chilly weather with sub-zero temperatures on Wednesday, February 2, with Chenduvarai recording minus 1 degree Celsius. Climate experts and environmentalists are worried above the unpredicted weather pattern in the region. The normal winter season starts in November with extreme cold experienced in the first week of January, when normally the valleys and hills are covered with frost.
This year, Munnar witnessed the lowest temperature of the season on December 28 with Chenduvarai recording 1 degree Celsius. But then the temperature rose and till January end there was no snowfall and the average temperature was 8 to 10 degrees Celsius throughout the month.
According to climatologists, chilly weather returned to the hill station after a 36-day-long gap. As per data from the United Planters’ Association of South India (UPASI), a tea research foundation in Munnar, the lowest temperatures recorded at various places in Munnar on Wednesday were Silent Valley – 1, R&D – 3, Munnar UPASI – 3, Sevenmalai – 4, Chittuvarai, Nallathanni – 5, and Thenmalai – 8 degree Celsius. The lowest temperatures on Thursday were Chenduvarai – 1, Silent Valley – 2, Munnar UPASI – 3, Sevenmalai – 4, Mattuppetty and R&D – 5 degree Celsius.
The unexpected frost has adversely affected tea plantations across Munnar. According to Kannan Devan Hills Plantations Company officials, tea leaves have wilted in the Chenduvarai estates due to the frost.
Climatologist Gopakumar Cholayil said that there is a noticeable change in the climate pattern in Munnar. “The absence of winter in January and return of chilly weather and light snowfall in February indicates that the climate calendar in Munnar has changed. Earlier the climate in the hill station was predictable but it’s not so anymore,” Cholayil explained.
Environmentalist MN Jayachandran said that changes in climate pattern mainly affect the farming sector in Munnar and nearby hill stations. “The unexpected frost will cause large-scale damage to tea plantations and vegetable farms. The government should study the effects of the climate change pattern on the farming sector in Idukki,” Jayachandran said.
According to climate experts, there has been a noticeable change in the winter pattern in the hill station for the past four years. In February 2019, Munnar experienced a long winter with the mercury dipping to sub-zero. In 2021, Munnar missed the winter in the first week of January due to unexpected rains. But a week later, winter was back with temperatures dropping to sub-zero, experts said.
The most preferred season for tourists to visit Munnar is winter, when they throng the hill station to enjoy the chill weather. However, this year they were disappointed in January as the season didn’t start at all, but with frost appearing on February 2 they can hope to visit Munnar to experience the season.