Increasing heavy rainfall events in South India due to changing land use land cover

by A. Boyaj, H. P. Dasari, I. Hoteit, K. Ashok
Article Year: 2020 DOI: 10.1002/qj.3826


Through an analysis of land use land cover (LULC) data for the years 2005 and 2017 from the Advanced Wide Field Sensor onboard the Indian Remote Sensing satellite, we find considerable changes in the LULC in three major states of South India, namely, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Kerala. This change is mainly due to increasing urbanization, in addition to the change of prevalent mixed forest into deciduous needle/leaf forest in Kerala. Motivated by this finding, we study the impact of these LULC changes over a decade on the extremity of twelve heavy rainfall events in these states through several sensitivity experiments with a convection-permitting Weather Research and Forecasting model, by changing the LULC boundary conditions. We particularly focus on three representative heavy rainfall events, specifically, over (i) Chennai (December 01, 2015), (ii) Telangana (September 24, 2016), and (iii) Kerala (August 15, 2018). The simulated rainfall patterns of the three heavy rainfall events are found to be relatively better with the use of the 2017 LULC boundary conditions. The improvement is statistically significant in the case of the Chennai and Kerala events. On analysis of these simulations, and outputs from additional simulations we have conducted for nine other heavy rainfall events, we suggest that the recent LULC changes result in higher surface temperatures, sensible heat fluxes, and a deeper and moist boundary layer. This causes a relatively higher convective available potential energy and, consequently, heavier rainfall. We find the LULC changes in the three states, mainly dominated by the increasing urbanization in Telangana and Tamil Nadu, enhance the rainfall during the heavy rainfall events by 20% - 25%. This is the first extensive investigation of multiple and multi-regional cases over the Indian region.