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Updated: April 16, 2012 19:05 IST

Freak phenomenon along the southern coast of India

  • T. Nandakumar
Comment (8)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

U.N. recognises terminology borrowed from Kerala fishermen

T. Peter vividly recalls the panic that gripped the coast for five days from May 17 in 2005. “The sea came surging in, inundating vast areas… It was an unprecedented phenomenon, occurring as it did in perfectly fair weather.”

With memories of the 2004 tsunami still fresh in the minds of people, the event sparked alarm all along the coast. As many as 12,000 people were affected as the tidal swell slammed the coastal belt, from Adimalathura to Pozhiyoor.

Residents fled their waterlogged houses; boats and fishing equipment were damaged. “It took several days for the situation to return to normality,” remembers Mr. Peter, president of the Kerala Swathantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation, who was at the forefront of relief operations.

Baffled by the freak phenomenon, scientists initially attributed it to an intensive pre-monsoon swell. The Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS) later conducted a detailed study, which traced the origin of the swell to a cyclonic storm off the west coast of Australia.

The project, which involved tsunami expert Tad Murty of Canada, established that swells generated in the southern Indian Ocean by storms near Antarctica could propagate northward, to the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

“Travelling thousands of kilometres across the entire ocean basins, the swell gets amplified when it encounters a coastal current directed southward, resulting in increased wave setup, a phenomenon referred to as remote forcing,” says Director of CESS N.P. Kurian, who was part of the study.

‘Kallakkadal,' the term used to name the freak flooding, was borrowed from the parlance of fishermen. “In local parlance, it means the sea that arrives like a thief, unannounced,” says Dr. Kurian.

In February this year, UNESCO formally accepted the term to explain the freak occurrence. Earlier, the World Meteorological Organisation and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission too recognised the terminology. “The formal recognition could perhaps pave the way for the term to be included in subsequent editions of dictionaries,” Dr. Kurian says.

Mr. Peter said the adoption of the term by the U.N. represented a marriage of conventional wisdom and scientific endeavour. “It calls for further studies to be taken up for hazard assessment and disaster mitigation.”

‘Kallakkadal' is known to occur along the southern coast of India, mainly during the pre-monsoon period, in April and May, marked by clear weather. The flooding turns severe on the days of spring tide. Though not well documented in scientific literature, the swells occur almost every year with varying intensity. They are characterised by long-period waves, with frequency of more than 15 seconds.

“The study highlights need for regular monitoring of Antarctic storms. A global database on storm surges will be a critical input for a numerical model that could help to predict the swell waves and coastal flooding,” says Dr. Kurian.

I agree what Jothikumar was really meant. But it is sad to read this kind of comment which is driven by unnecessary spirit of regionalism.

from:  Ravi Nair
Posted on: Apr 17, 2012 at 16:11 IST

@Nani: True

from:  Varun Vashishth
Posted on: Apr 17, 2012 at 15:01 IST

To Jothikumar, Dubai - The first 5 letters KALLA has originated from Kannada and it means Thief. In Tamil it is Thiruda.

from:  DHAR S
Posted on: Apr 17, 2012 at 14:58 IST

Mr. Jothikumar, Prof. Kurien has done vital research that could save thousands of livelihoods and lives. And yet you choose to criticize him for the most insignificant and trivial issue imaginable.

from:  Mohun
Posted on: Apr 17, 2012 at 14:09 IST

I would urge Mr Jothikumar to read the article again with out any bias in mind.The article only says that the term "Kallakkadal" is borrowed from the parlance of fishermen.It did not say Kerala fishermen,nor has anybody claimed that the term has been taken from Malayalam language.If the meaning of the term is understood without translation,that means there is so much in common among the languages of the region and therefore among the people of the region.There is no reason or room for animosity in this case.Similarly,the name Jothikumar cannot be claimed as a Tamil name.It is so commonly used in India irrespective of the dialect one speaks.Grow up my dear friend.We have a common heritage that binds us together.

from:  Raju Varghese
Posted on: Apr 17, 2012 at 14:03 IST

@ jothikumar - Why do you have to bring regionalism and politics into everything?

from:  Dr Gopinath
Posted on: Apr 17, 2012 at 12:37 IST

@Jothikumar Dubai, Its just a scientific observation, why bring regionalism into everything? Does not matter if it is Tamil or Malayalam, the phenomenon was observed by our ancestors and every one can be proud of it.

from:  Nani
Posted on: Apr 17, 2012 at 06:54 IST

Appreciate the study conducted by CESS, but Dr.Kurian shall mentioned the term which is common to Tamil & Malayalam. Kallakkadal the term used to name the freak flooding... is the same meaning used to term in TAMIL too. It should be appropriate to use the term borrowed from TAMIL & MALAYALAM meanings. I know Kerala leaders will not accept/digest to share the credibility but i never expect a great scientist too would fall in the same category. The effect of Kallakkadal is not only KERALA, it is common to Tamil Nadu and Srilanka too so all TAMIL fishermen use the same term.

from:  Jothikumar Dubai
Posted on: Apr 16, 2012 at 13:36 IST
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