As temperatures continue to drop in Munnar, leading to a blanket of frost across the idyllic hill town, people are flocking to the most popular tourist destination of Kerala to experience the cool weather.
Temperatures have been constantly dipping in many pockets in and around the hill station since the beginning of January and it touched -1 degree celsius in areas like Chenduvara Estate and Letchmi Estate this week, locals said quoting data of private weather forecasting service.
With mercury level plunging continuously, a thick blanket of fog enveloped the lush greenery, sprawling tea plantations and meadows of Munnar, also known as the ”Kashmir of South”.
The scenic images of mist-covered valleys, frost-sprinkled grasslands and ice crystals on plants have already gone viral, triggering the rush of holidayers from neighbouring places.
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A senior IMD official, however, said though mercury is falling in Munnar, there is no official confirmation that it has dropped to sub-zero level.
IMD has no manual observatory in the region and as per the figures of the automatic weather station, the temperature registered up to one degree celsius but not below that.
”It is a drawback that we do not have an observatory in the area. Many photos and messages are doing rounds in social media claiming that there was snowfall in Munnar. But, it can’t be snow. It can only be foggy conditions,” the official told PTI.
When the mercury level dips, fog descends and this phenomenon is quite normal in high ranges, he added.
Meanwhile, many hoteliers in and around the town are enthusiastic about the arrival of tourists as they are receiving more bookings.
Punyavel, a local resident living in nearby Chokanad Estate, said severe cold weather is being experienced for some days especially from midnight till dawn.
”It is normal to feel colder in Munnar during December-January months. In the past years also, the temperature used to reach sub-zero level on certain days. But this temperature lasting for days is a phenomenon that began in recent years only,” he told PTI.
Though the weather is extremely cold this time, it is happy to see that the winter fog and mist is drawing a large number of tourists to the hill station, Punyavel, who runs a grocery shop in the area for decades, said.
Shibu, another resident, said not all areas of Munnar but certain pockets like Devikulam, Top Station and some plantation areas are witnessing cold weather the most.
Climate change also has its effect on the pattern and duration of the winter in this hill town, he opined.
”Years ago, winter in Munnar used to set in by September last and end by December-January. In course of time, may be under the influence of climate change, the months that experience the cold weather have changed,” Shibu told PTI.
Recalling the extreme winter two years ago, he said many areas of Munnar saw sub-zero temperature for 13 days from January 1-13 in 2021.
Wildlife photographer and resort owner Praveen Muraleedharan also echoed his view.
”Earlier we have never faced this situation. Now-a-days, when it is raining, it rains heavily.. it is one of the effects of global warming,” he told PTI.
This is causing damage to the local crops especially to the tea plantations here and those practicing agriculture.
These days, extreme cold weather is being experienced even inside the sanctuaries, inside the Eravikulam national park and in some buffer zones and outside in Munnar.
”We always had fog here…but not at this level. In my opinion, it is not causing any damage or advantage to the tourism industry because we never brand Munnar as a snow-fall destination. But it is true that a lot of domestic tourists are coming to see the fog,” Muraleedharan, also the owner of Ecotones Resort, Munnar, said.
Situated 1,600 meters above sea level, the hill station was the summer retreat of British colonialists during the pre-independence era.
Munnar is known for its vast tea plantations, pristine valleys and scenic mountains and exotic flora and fauna.