Wettest Place on Earth

The town of Cherrapunji in the state of Meghalaya in northeast India has earned global fame as being the wettest place on earth. It is located at 25.30°N, 91.70°E and has an elevation of 1.484 km above mean sea level.

Cherrapunji’s annual normal rainfall is 1,177.7 cm. During the four months June-September of the southwest monsoon season alone it gets a normal rainfall of 867 cm.
But these are average figures. Cherrapunji received as much as 2,646.1 cm in the 12-month period from August 1860 to July 1861.
In the month of July 1861, it received a total rainfall of 930 cm
On several occasions in the past, Cherrapunji has recorded exceptionally high amounts of 24-hr rainfall. For example,
103.6 cm on 13-14 June 1876
99.7 cm on 11-12 July 1910
98.5 cm on 12-13 September 1974
156.3 cm on 15-16 June 1995

But the skeptics often ask, “Is Cherrapunji really the wettest place on earth?”

The first contender for this position is Mawsynram, a town just 16 km west of Cherrapunji, which has an annual normal rainfall of 1,187.3 cm, or 10 cm more than that of Cherrapunji.

We learn from internet sources that there are two towns in Colombia, South America, that could stake a claim to be the wettest places on earth. These are Lloro (1,330 cm) and Port Lopez de Micay (1,289 cm). Not far behind is Mount Waialeale, in Hawaii (1,150 cm).

But records can be deceptive.

One important factor is the length of the historical record. Rain gauge records for Cherrapunji date back to 1850. We know so much about Cherrapunji rains. For Mawsynram, we have the data only from 1940 onwards. For other places like Lloro or Mt Waialeale, the records are even shorter. Moreover, the rainfall figures available on the internet vary considerably with the source.

Another factor is the overall climate. Cherrapunji has a monsoonal climate. Rain falls just in four months. November to March are almost dry. The climate of Hawaii or Colombia is of the tropical rain forest type where rain falls throughout the year.

Then, it is how we compare extreme events. We should not just compare the heaviest rainfall but also consider how often the extremely heavy rains occur.

So I think we should not be in a hurry to dethrone Cherrapunji from its position of eminence. For me, Cherrapunji will always be the wettest place on earth.

– R. R. Kelkar

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