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Impact of Rainfall Variability on River Hydrology: A Case Study of Southern Western Ghats, India

Abstract

The Western Ghats plays a pivotal role in determining the hydrological and hydroclimatic regime of Peninsular India. The mountainous catchments of the Ghats are the primary contributors of flow in the rivers that sustains the life and agricultural productivity in the area. Although many studies have been conducted in the past decades to understand long term trends in the meteorological and hydrological variables of major river basins, not much attention have been made to unfold the relationship existing among rainfall and river hydrology of natural drainages on either side of the Western Ghats which host one of the unique biodiversity hotspots across the world. Therefore, an attempt has been made in this paper to examine the short term (last three decades) changes in the rainfall pattern and its influence on the hydrological characteristics of some of the important rivers draining the southern Western Ghats as a case study. The short term, annual and seasonal trends in the rainfall, and its variability and discharge were analyzed using Mann-Kendall test and Sen’s estimator of slope. The study showed a decreasing trend in rainfall in the southwest monsoon while a reverse trend is noticed in northeast monsoon. Correspondingly, the discharge of the west and east flowing rivers also showed a declining trend in the southwest monsoon season. The runoff coefficient also followed the trends in the discharge. The runoff coefficient of the Periyar river showed a decreasing trend, whereas the Cauvery river exhibited an increasing trend. A high-resolution analysis of rainfall data revealed that the number of moderate rainfall events showed a decreasing trend throughout the southern Western Ghats, whereas the high intensity rainfall events showed an opposite trend. The decline in groundwater level in the areas which recorded an increase in high intensity rainfall events and decrease in moderate rainfall events showed that the groundwater recharge process is significantly affected by changes in the rainfall pattern of the area.

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Sreelash, K., Sharma, R.K., Gayathri, J.A. et al. Impact of Rainfall Variability on River Hydrology: A Case Study of Southern Western Ghats, India. J Geol Soc India 92, 548–554 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12594-018-1065-9

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