Saturday, August 28

Monsoonal India

Monsoon rains sweep across India every year between June and September. This unique weather phenomenon is the result of interplay between three prominent geographic features; the vast deserts of northern India, the towering Himalayas and the warm Indian Ocean. As the hot Summer sun heats the nation's Thar desert and the surrounding land to scorching temperatures (i.e. an average temperature of 41C each day) the resulting low pressure draws varst streams moisture laden air in from the coast.

The air stream then splits in two as it sweeps around high ground in south-central India known as the Western Ghats. One stream passes over Mumbai and move on towards Delhi while the other heads east, flowing up the Bay of Bengal toward Kolkata. Both air streams eventually encounter the Himalaya range, whose great height forces them stall. As they rise in place over India they release large volumes of rain. Average rainfall rises swiftly from as little as 20 millimetres per month to more than 300 millimetres.

Incredibly, the arrival of the Monsoon is highly predictable. Every year it reaches the coast of the southern state of Kerala around June 1 and Mumbai approximately 10 days later. Delhi usually receives its first Monsoon weather by June 29. Within weeks the rest of India is soon covered by Monsoonal conditions. Despite more than half a dozen business trips to India I’ve never travelled during Monsoon season. Therefore, this month’s trip to India was a new experience even for me. Garry came with me on what was his inaugural visit to the sub-continent.

As expected, we saw plenty of rain, but fortunately good weather prevailed whenever we visited the country's most iconic locations. I put this down to good luck rather than good planning as this year’s monsoon has been particularly wet. With two weeks left to go Delhi has already reported its heaviest monsoon rainfall for more than a decade.

In fact,the last day I was in Delhi the Yamuna River rose above the level of storm water outlets along its banks and water swiftly innudated parts of the city. The morning papers were full of images of buses flooded up to their windscreen. However, throughout my time in Delhi, localised flooding was a common sight. Extensive construction work for the upcoming Commonwealth Games in October has resulted in poorly protected drains becoming clogged with earth and debris.

Over the next few days I’ll post other highlights from our time in India. Stay tuned for photos and stories about:
  • The staggering volumes of rain in Mumbai and the security paranoia enveloping its tourist hotels.

  • Our marble-clad rooftop room at the Taj Lake Palace hotel, a former Maharajah summer residence in Udaipur.
  • The beauty of the Taj Mahal and the red stone mystic of Fatehpur Sikri.
  • The towering red walls of Agra Fort.
  • Catching an express train in Delhi, trying the onboard meal and suffering acutely for days afterwards.
Check back regularly as I add live links to each of the bullet points above. Happy reading! And, "yes" that man really is carrying a load of red bricks on his head.

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