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World's Heaviest 48-Hour Rainfall Confirmed as More Than 98 Inches

By By Mark Leberfinger, Staff Writer
April 12, 2014, 12:26:26 AM EDT

Cherrapunji, India, is one of the wettest places on Earth, thanks to monsoon rains each year.

Cherrapunji now holds the world record 48-hour rainfall with a whopping 2,493 mm, or 98.15 inches, of rain on June 15-16, 1995, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced Friday.

The WMO’s Commission on Climatology made its decision after an investigation into whether the rainfall total should be included in the WMO World Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes.

Cherrapunji is so wet because it gets an almost unimpeded flow of moisture from the Bay of Bengal across the lower elevations of Bangladesh to the south, Manager of International Forecasting and Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls said.

The city sits on a plateau at about 4,869 feet (1,484 meters), so as the moist air pushes north, it is forced to rise quickly, which forces it to condense into clouds and rain.

The moist air upslopes over the area as it attempts to rise into the Himalayas just north of Cherrapunji.

Cherrapunji also holds the one-year world record for rainfall with 26,470 mm (86 feet, 10 inches) of rain from August 1860 to July 1861, the WMO said.


While India depends on monsoon rains for its agriculture, there could be a problem this summer with weaker rains and below-normal rainfall, Nicholls said.

The monsoon rains are very important for India since that is when most of their annual rain will fall. India’s economy is still largely agriculturally based so farmers rely on these rains for their crops, Nicholls said. meteorologists expressed confidence that El Niño is developing and may reach moderate strength this summer.

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While El Niño may bring beneficial rains to California and tame the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season, it typically means a weaker monsoon and below-normal rainfall, especially in the key growing areas of northwest India.

“However, El Niño is not the only factor, a more important factor discovered fairly recently is the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD),” Nicholls said. “A positive IOD tends to enhance rainfall during the monsoon, while a negative IOD tends to suppress rainfall.”

The IOD is projected to be largely neutral this summer while El Niño is projected to develop, so El Niño may be the more dominate signal. This could mean below-normal monsoonal rains for northern India.

The latest monsoon influenced by El Niño forming in summer was 2009, which led to well below-normal rainfall across central and northern India.

The lack of rainfall sank the Indian economy into recession, Nicholls said.

“The one difference from 2009 versus this year is the IOD which went strong negative in June 2009, then rebound to neutral then weakly positive late in the summer,” he said. “The IOD is expected to be different in 2014, so the impacts may not be as extreme, but if the El Niño forms as expected then there should be rainfall shortfalls across portions of northern India, which would stress crops and could ultimately stress India's economy.”

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