Daily rainfall totals are analyzed for the main agro-climatic zones of Sri Lanka for the period 1976–2006. The emphasis is on daily rainfall rather than on longer-period totals, in particular the number of daily falls exceeding given threshold totals. For one station (Mapalana), where a complete daily series is available from 1950, a longer-term perspective on changes over half a century is provided. The focus here is particularly on rainfall in March and April, given the sensitivity of agricultural decisions to early southwest monsoon rainfall at the beginning of the Yala
cultivation season but other seasons are also considered, in particular the northeast monsoon. Rainfall across Sri Lanka over three decades is investigated in relation to the main atmospheric drivers known to affect climate in the region: sea surface temperatures in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, of which the former are shown to be more important. The strong influence of El Niño and La Niña phases on various aspects of the daily rainfall distribution in Sri Lanka is confirmed: positive correlations with Pacific sea-surface temperatures during the north east monsoon and negative correlations at other times. It is emphasized in the discussion that Sri Lanka must be placed in its regional context and it is important to draw on regional-scale research across the Indian subcontinent and the Bay of Bengal.
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