Global warming impacting track of monsoon systems behind deluge in India, Pakistan: Experts

This March, India saw the highest temperature in 122 years, impacting wheat production, and now experts fear that rice production in UP, Bihar, and Jharkhand could take a toll due to deficient rain.

Published: 31st August 2022 03:51 PM  |   Last Updated: 31st August 2022 04:01 PM   |  A+A-

Flash floods triggered by heavy monsoon rains across much of Pakistan have killed nearly 1,000 people and injured and displaced thousands more since mid-June. (Photo | AP)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: As massive floods impact Pakistan and parts of India, causing heavy loss of life and property, experts say that extreme events like flash floods due to heavy precipitation are expected to intensify in coming years with global warming impacting the track of the monsoon systems and they advocated for enhancing operational flood forecast in South Asia to contain the damages. 

According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), 2022 has seen the second-highest extreme events since 1902. The latest countrywide rainfall data shows that only one-third of the states have received normal rainfall while the rest of the county (63 percent) has seen either deficit or excess rainfall this monsoon season so far.     

This March, India saw the highest temperature in 122 years, impacting wheat production, and now experts fear that rice production in UP, Bihar, and Jharkhand could take a toll due to deficient rain.

The stark images of the deluge in neighboring Pakistan with houses being washed away, leaving hundreds dead and thousands homeless, and flooded streets of several big cities in the country, reflect the growing catastrophe due to the heating of the planet.

On the contrary are images of drying up rivers and water channels in China and several European countries, with people struggling to deal with soaring temperature and water shortage. Reports say that Europe’s drought is set to become the worst in 500 years with Roman ruins, World War II bombs, and hunger stones buried under water resurfacing due to drying rivers.

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Meteorologists are citing concerns over changes in the track of Monsoon weather systems across the country. The trend has become more and more visible in the last 4-5 years, with the 2022 season being the latest one. In fact, recent Pakistan floods have also been a result of this change.

“During the last six months, entire South Asia has been reporting a series of extreme weather events. While Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India have battled severe floods, China is reeling under massive drought conditions. These are big onsets of climate change. You would never know when we will be caught off guard no matter what we do, we will never be able to fully prove ourselves,” said Anjal Prakash, Research Director, Bharti Institute of Public Policy, Indian School of Business and IPCC Lead Author.

Monsoon in India has undergone several changes over the years, especially on account of climate change. Most of the Monsoon low-pressure areas or depressions are now traveling south of their position, across Central India keeping the rain restricted to the region. Few instances like floods in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are the result of this shift in the movement of Monsoon systems.

Most importantly, this also triggered massive flash floods in Sindh and Balochistan region that have reportedly claimed over 1000 lives. Besides excessive rains, shifts in Monsoon systems have also transformed some places from excess rainfall to deficit rainfall. This is most likely to have a bearing on agriculture output, particularly rice production.

Subimal Ghosh, Professor, IIT Bombay, and IPCC Working Group- I report Lead Author, says that the western Indian Ocean is warming at a high rate creating huge moisture flux, which is resulting in extreme rainfall over the Indian Landmass. He says that with such events set to increase, the focus should be on improving the rain early warning forecast system and evacuation strategy. 

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“We need to study spatial variations of rainfall to improve the precipitation forecast.  Problem is that the models (monsoon) we use are not very good at simulating the Indian monsoon and we need to improve the flood early warning system and put in place a comprehensive evacuation system,” he said.  

The month of August has already seen two back-to-back depressions forming in the Bay of Bengal and traveling across Central India. Meanwhile, the third consecutive system intensified into a deep depression and also followed a similar track. This system has given incessant rains, particularly over parts of Madhya Pradesh, triggering flash floods. It was followed by another depression in quick succession, which too followed the same path.

These intense systems in quick succession kept the Monsoon trough well south of its normal position for most of August.

“Changes in the track of the system would have a more deadly impact on the crop which would be in the growing stage at the moment. Due to the southward movement of all main Monsoon low-pressure areas and depressions, rice-producing states like West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, and East Uttar Pradesh have been deficit by large margins. This would straight away have an impact on the quantity as well as the quality of the crop,” said Mahesh Palawat from Skymet.

DATA (SOURCE: IMD)

State-wise Distribution of Rainfall June 1-Aug 30

Large Excess       12%

Excess                  20%

Normal                  37%

Deficient                27%

Large Deficient      4%

Statewise Large excess of excess rainfall so far this season

States                     Excess rainfall percentage

Tamil Nadu              85%

Karnataka                34

Telangana                51

Madhya Pradesh     18

Gujarat                     31

Rajasthan                23

Statewise deficient rainfall so far this season

States                     Deficient rainfall percentage

UP                           44%

Bihar                        39

Jharkhand                27

Delhi                        31

Tripura                     28

Manipur                   44 



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