IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Cloudburst could have set off deadly landslide in Kerala  

17th August, 2020 Geography

Context: A cloudburst on the night of August 6 could have set off the deadly landslide in Pettimudi in Kerala’s Idukki district, which claimed nearly 70 lives of tea plantation workers and their families.


About Cloudburst:

  • Cloudburst is the phenomenon by which a particular geographical area receives copious amounts of sudden rainfall in a short period of time.
  • Cloudbursts can quickly dump large amounts of water e.g. 25 mm of precipitation corresponds to 25,000 metric tons/km^2 (1 inch corresponds to 72,300 short tons over one square mile).
  • However, cloudbursts are infrequent as they occur only via orographic lift or occasionally when a warm air parcel mixes with cooler air, resulting in sudden condensation.
  • At times, a large amount of runoff from higher elevations is mistakenly conflated with a cloudburst.
  • The term "cloudburst" arose from the notion that clouds were akin to water balloons and could burst, resulting in rapid precipitation. Though this idea has since been disproven, the term remains in use.