Climate Change

India this monsoon: 12% excess rainfall until now, distribution skewed

The North East, for example, is experiencing floods in some regions and below-normal rainfall in others

By Akshit Sangomla
Published: Tuesday 14 July 2020

The southwest monsoon is in full swing in India — rainfall across the country from June 1 to July 13 was 12 per cent more than normal for this time, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). The distribution, however, has not been uniform across all regions.

“If you look at the difference of accumulated rainfall so far, and the long-term average that we call ‘normal’, many parts of the west coast have recorded below-normal rainfall. The far north, over Jammu and Kashmir, recorded below-normal rainfall as well,” said Raghu Murtugudde, a climate scientist at the University of Maryland.

The North East, meanwhile, is experiencing floods in some regions and below-normal rainfall in others. The union territory of Jammu and Kashmir is suffering from a rainfall deficit of 60 per cent; Ladakh region has the highest rainfall deficit in the country at 63 per cent. Himachal Pradesh recorded a deficit of 28 per cent.

Manipur received 44 per cent less rainfall than normal till July 13; Mizoram 38 per cent less than normal. In stark contrast, regions in Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh are experiencing floods, with excess rainfall of 22 per cent, 45 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.

On the western coast, Kerala, which receives the first batch of rains during the season, is reeling under a deficit of 22 per cent. Many districts of south interior Karnataka such as Chikmaglur, Hassan, Kodagu and Shimoga also recorded deficit rainfall.

Several states in the north, central and southern India have received excess rainfall. Andhra Pradesh received the highest — 61 per cent more than normal — followed by Bihar with an excess rainfall of 57 per cent.

Gujarat received 31 per cent more rainfall than normal while in the north, Uttar Pradesh received 27 per cent excess rain till July 13.

“We are once again experiencing a mix of excess rain over the central-eastern Indian region, where widespread floods have been occurring more frequently, and a patchy distribution elsewhere,” Murtugudde said.

He added: “A mild La Niña seems to be emerging, so we may get normal to above-normal rainfall in July and August, which are the peak monsoon rainfall months.”

He, however, said June only contributes about 20 per cent of the season’s total rainfall, and hence it was a “bit early to worry”.

The distribution of rainfall in early June was affected by cyclone Nisarga that affected the western Maharashtra coast right around the onset of the monsoon in Kerala. It also led to rains, in addition to helping with the onset.

This was followed by a depression that went into Odisha around June 11-12, which added some rain, said Murtugudde.

The monsoon rains covered the entire country much before the usual time: They reached north western India on June 26 as against the normal date of July 8.

The last time such an event took place was in 2013, when the monsoon had covered the entire country by June 16.

The current season began on time over southern and eastern India, which was aided by the development and progress of cyclone Nisarga in the Arabian Sea. There was a delay of around a week in its progress towards Northeast India, after which it rapidly covered the rest of the country, helped along by a cyclonic circulation over central India in the third week of June.

The month of June ended with a countrywide excess rainfall of 18 per cent. During this time, there were 408 heavy, very heavy and extremely heavy rainfall events, according to data from IMD.

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