More landslides expected as continuous rainfall saturates the soil

The National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology (NCHM) reports that although the amount of rainfall has been normal in the third month of monsoon season, however, there were some landslides reported across the country.

A massive landslide in Laya killed ten highlanders on 17 June. The temporary store of Dobji Dzong was swept away on 12 July. A landslide tragedy occurred in Pasakha, when a woman and her seven-month-old infant were killed on 30 June. Recent floods in Trongsa and the most recent landslides in multiple locations along the Taba-Lanjophakha road in Thimphu were caused by the continuous rainfall. Several raids have been blocked or cut off due to the slides.

An official with the Weather and Climate Services Division, Monju Subba, said that national weather advisory has been issued due to the continuous rainfall for the last few days, which has saturated the soil and caused it to lose its rigidity, resulting in localized floods that will end up as a landslide.

Many observers feel that the landslides are getting more in number and even deadlier which may indicate changes in how rainfall are happening and may be related to climate change.

“Even in the Bay of Bengal, there was a low pressure system, and they issued a weather advisory for their own country, which we followed, but it had no effect on Bhutan. However, because we are in the middle of the monsoon season, we will be getting rain. As a result, landslides and floods during the monsoon are acceptable,” she said.

June, July, August, and September are the months with the most rainfall, and on 7 June of this year, NCHM reported that the monsoon had arrived, and the country have been receiving rain since then.

NCHM normally take the average of previous years’ data to compare it to the current year. The data collection is yet to be completed for 2021.

“If we look at the previous years’ trends, we can see that 2017 was a normal year, 2018 was below normal as we had less rain than usual, 2019 was also normal, and 2020 was above average. And we normally make a projection for 2021, and in that forecast, we stated it would be normal,” she said.

There was a little reduction in rainfall by the end of July.

She said, “There is currently no disruption, and we are experiencing typical rainfall. We did a temperature trend study, and the first thing we should look at is whether our observation shows a trend, because we can’t compare it to global data, and conclude whether climate change is occurring or not until there is a pattern. So, first and foremost, there is a trend, and there was a temperature variation of 2 to 3°C on average.”

Punakha had the highest daily maximum temperature of 37.5°C last year, according to Bhutan State of Climate (BSC) 2020, released by NCHM. The lowest daily minimum temperature of negative 12.0°C was recorded in Haa in 2020.

Last year, the country’s yearly average maximum temperature was 22°C, with a minimum temperature of 11.8°C.

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