2019 Indian Monsoon — Blessing or Curse?

Visitor Essay by Kip Hansen — 17 January 2020


featured_imageIn India, the monsoons that deliver the rains usually are not simply climate or local weather phenomena — they’re  mystical and legendary entities —  entwined into the nationwide character and the annual cycle of life.

Now that the 2019 Southwest Monsoon is formally over, it’s reported to have delivered 110% of the long-term common quantity of rain to this largely dry sub-continent.  It was simply months in the past that the worldwide press was touting tales about water issues in Chennai.    It’s possible you’ll be extra aware of the earlier identify of town, Madras.  The NY Occasions lined the story and threw in a line: “After which there’s local weather change. It doesn’t bear direct blame for Chennai’s water disaster, but it surely makes it worse. “

To not let any unhealthy information go to waste, newer protection carries headlines:  “India: scores useless as late monsoon rains inundate northern states — Greater than 100 useless in deluge after delayed rains overwhelm insufficient drainage techniques”.  The venerable New York Occasions final November carried this:  “India’s Ominous Future: Too Little Water, or Far Too A lot”  by  Bryan Denton and Somini Sengupta with a lede of “A long time of short-sighted authorities insurance policies are leaving tens of millions defenseless within the age of local weather disruptions – particularly the nation’s poor.”

Actually, whereas the 2019 Southwest Monsoon was a bit late arriving, it lastly delivered.  At 110% of the long run common, rains have had optimistic and destructive results.  As nearly-always in India, a above common monsoon brings flooding and loss of life.  This final yr?  1,900 reported killed in monsoonal flooding.  Observe that the present inhabitants of India is believed to be about 1,386,000,000 (sure, that’s higher than one and a 3rd billion, with a B).   That is clearly a Local weather Emergency!  Or is it?



Means too many people have died on this yr’s flooding, however such numbers usually are not uncommon for India — in response to Em-Dat on the Centre for Analysis on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), it is a excessive yr, however not an exceptionally excessive yr, and roughly regular for above-average monsoon years. (Observe that the sooner years within the EM-DAT database usually are not dependable and will increase are sometimes as a consequence of improved reporting — confirmed with CRED by way of private communication.)

For comparability, in 2019, a complete of 92 individuals died from floods in the USA, the vast majority of these by deliberately (and foolishly, having been warned and warned once more) driving their vehicles onto flooded roads.

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Monsoon Prediction

The prediction of India’s monsoon, on which a lot of the nation’s well-being relies upon, is practiced internationally.  For 2019, AccuWeather  issued that is in July 2019:

For the season as a complete, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls anticipates near-normal rainfall throughout most of southern, jap and much northern India.  The exceptions could also be throughout the coast of Kerala and southern Karnataka, the place a surplus is anticipated.”




WeatherUnderground (The Climate Firm, an IBM Enterprise) referred to as for “One other Subpar Monsoon Season Probably for India in 2019”:

“It’s been 25 years since India has had a considerably wetter-than-average monsoon, and 2019 is unlikely to interrupt this streak, in response to new outlooks from the Indian Meteorological Division (IMD) and The Climate Firm, an IBM Enterprise (TWC). The IMD’s newest monsoon outlook, issued on Might 31, initiatives that complete nationwide rainfall throughout the monsoon season (June-September) will find yourself at 96%, or on the low finish of the conventional vary (96-104%). The margin of mannequin error within the IMD outlook is four% in both course—which suggests the percentages are virtually even that 2019’s monsoon rainfall will truly fall beneath the conventional vary.”

Since then, a number of information experiences have highlighted that the 2019 monsoon was the rainiest in 25 years.  Let’s have a look: (India has been very cautious in its recording of monsoon rainfall)


The inexperienced bars are “regular” years — years inside +/- 10% of the long-term common.  Crimson bars are “drought” years and blue bars are flood years.   The unique graph solely prolonged to 2017, however I’ve added on the precise hand aspect the 2 extra years — 2018 at 91% (proven as -9%) and 2019 at 110% (proven as flood) [source: Reserve Bank of India].

With out bothering with an in depth look, we are able to see that since 1995 or so (about 25 years), India’s summer time monsoons have been beneath the long-term common far as a rule — with 5 extraordinary drought years.  And, till 2019, just one yr approached the +10 % threshold.

The newest interval appears similar to the 1900-1930 interval, with extra drier years than wetter years.

There have been 27 drought years (decrease than 90%) and 21 flood years (larger than 110%) — together with 2019  —  since 1870.  These are annual nationwide numbers and can provide a misunderstanding.  The rainfall will not be at all times even — some localities getting an excessive amount of and a few not sufficient — even in a traditional yr.

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This yr, 2019, the southwest monsoon ran a bit late, by about two weeks, leaving the northwest of India in a warmth wave situation.  However, in response to the Reserve Financial institution of India’s Financial Coverage report  for October 2019, The preliminary delay and deficiency within the south-west monsoon has been mitigated by the resurgence of rains throughout July-September. Snug reservoir ranges augur effectively for rabi sowing and meals grains shares above the buffer norms present a cushion in opposition to potential inflationary pressures.” and “Though the south-west monsoon turned out to be above lengthy interval common, its uneven progress – each temporal and spatial – might impinge upon the prospects for agriculture.”

When the monsoon acquired totally underway, in lots of areas it was not till September that the heavy rains got here.   Heavy rains in less-developed nations result in issues:  flooding and lack of life, over-stressed sewage techniques, streams and rivers stuffed with avenue trash and different pollution — all these the outcomes of infrastructure issues which have by no means been correctly addressed, have been under-addressed, or which have been allowed to construct as populations develop with out infrastructure maintaining.

 “…leaving tens of millions defenseless within the age of local weather disruptions” ?

Do the information about India’s monsoons help the concept the final 50 years — roughly the posited world warming interval — present “local weather disruptions”?

No, the information don’t help such a view — India’s monsoons have whipsawed between drought and flood since fashionable data started to be saved.  The cyclic nature of El Niños and La Niñas are evident in India’s nationwide rainfall report — El Niño usually bringing much less rains and drought and La Niña extra rain and flooding. India’s well-maintained nationwide rainfall information set exhibits no indicators of local weather disruption.


How uncommon is a late (or early) monsoon?



The paper that includes the graph above concludes that in the long run report there may be detected to be an common 2-day later arrival date within the newest 25 years or so, over the precedent days.   The information within the graph is just to 2012.  Visually, one may guess that this impact is because of the fewer years with very early arrival dates within the 1800s.   2019’s two-week delayed arrival is sort of late, however not distinctive.

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Over a interval of greater than 200 years, the onset of the Indian Southwest monsoon reliably falls inside a 1 month window.  So, so far as monsoon onset is anxious,  as we noticed with complete rainfall, there may be no proof of local weather disruption.

What will we see within the long-term Indian Southwest  Monsoon information?

We see India’s year-to-year climate and when the years are added collectively, we see India’s local weather.  The rainfall report goes again to 1870 — and the monsoon onset in Mumbai (Bombay) goes again to 1780.  These long-term data present a number of annual variation, each in complete rainfall and monsoon onset, however over the centuries lengthy report, wonderful stability.

The mostly-dependable rains are an important blessing to the individuals of rural India bringing good crops and prosperity however  when the rains come too quick and too livid, they’re a curse, bringing flooding, lack of property and lack of life.

India, as a nation, has made nice strides ahead in bringing its individuals out of poverty — however progress has been uneven, as we’d anticipate, it’s not a simple activity. To even out the blessings and mitigate the curse of the monsoons,  India wants extra common prosperity — greater requirements of dwelling — fewer abject slums,  higher dwelling circumstances for its poor and extra and higher nationwide and regional infrastructure.

What we don’t see in India’s monsoon is  local weather change or local weather disruption.

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 Writer’s Remark:

It’s a bit presumptuous for me to write down about India’s monsoons when we’ve readers right here who’re precise Indian climate and local weather professionals.  I hope they’ll forgive my trespass — I simply imply to current a fast overview and dispel a number of the in style press experiences of alarming adjustments in Indian local weather.

India will not be the one area that has monsoonal patterns of rainfall.



The Arizona (United States) Division of Transportation warns drivers of the challenges of driving throughout Arizona’s summer time monsoon season.  Northern Australia has a monsoon season that lasts from December by March.

If any readers are from that little patch of blue seen within the graphic above in northwest Canada, I’d like enter in regards to the reported monsoonal rains there.

Start feedback with “Kip…” if talking to me.  [Indicating to whom you are speaking is good for every directed comment.]  Thanks.

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