Kerala warming up: Kochi may drown in sea, agro-ecology to face doom, warn scientists

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Scientific studies have given clear indication of the warming trend in Kerala caused by changing climate in this region. An analysis of the data of daily maximum and minimum temperatures in Kottayam, conducted by the Climate Change and Ecosystem Studies Division of Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII), shows significant fall in the number of days with minimum temperature, indicating the hot days have gone up in the region during recent years.

The study reveals that diurnal temperature range (difference between monthly mean maximum and minimum temperatures) increased from 7.80°C during 1970s to 9.20°C in recent years. Frequency of occurrence of warming days (with temperature above 32°C) also increased at a rate of 0.56% per year. The monthly highest temperature showed an increase of 0.0380°C per year.

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Persistence of high temperature consecutively for six days or more represents a warm spell. The number of such warm spells increased and the gaps between warm spells became shorter in recent years.
The frequent occurrence of such high temperature events is a clear indication of changing climate leading to the warming of this region. If such events persist, it could have serious consequences for life and vegetation, the Institute points out.

A study by scientists of National Institute of Oceanography puts Kochi, that lies below sea level, as highly prone to flooding by the rising sea level as a result of increase in temperature. The study shows that sea level rise (SLR) of one metre could inundate 169.11 sq. km of Kochi. Sheets of water would engulf 598.83 sq km if the sea level rises to two metres, virtually drowning the city in the Arabian sea.

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RRII cautions that rise in the warm spell may cause serious impacts on the agricultural ecology of the region. It could be particularly damaging to rubber, the mainstay of Kerala economy, as production of latex in rubber trees is closely related to the atmospheric temperature. Rubber production could fall by 10-15 % for every degree rise in temperature.

Studies reveal that the increase in atmospheric temperature has started adversely affecting the rubber production in the traditional rubber growing regions in India. According to official statistics, the natural rubber production in the country was down by over 15 % in 2014-15 at 655,000 tonnes and it may go down further this year.

There are reports of adverse fall-outs of climate change on the production and productivity of agricultural crops in South East Asian and European countries. Extreme temperature events in the form of heat wave and cold wave in the northern states of India could impact severely on crop production and quality of grains leading to serious socio-economic consequences, the Institute warns.

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