Rain imbalance

An analytical study of 100 years of rainfall data in Maharashtra reveals that rainfall seasonality index has risen alarmingly in all districts in the state. This could mean higher incidences of both prolonged dry spells and intense rainfall episodes in the state. Pulak Guhathakurta, senior scientist at India Meteorological Department, Pune talks to Aparna Pallavi about his study published recently in Journal of Earth System Science

By Aparna Pallavi
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Pulak GuhathakurtaWhy did you carry out this study?

With an increase in the number of disaster events, it is necessary to have information on district rainfall climatology. This would aid better disaster management and planning. This is the first in-depth, district-level climatological study. Most studies at the national level provide sub-divisional level information, whereas at the district level the variability is higher.

What does the study show?

It shows that all districts in the state have registered a drop in pre-monsoon and winter rains, and a rise in rainfall in the monsoon months.

How did you carry out the study?

We analysed rainfall figures from 1901-2000 obtained from 335 rain-gauge stations in the state. The data was organised into two chronological periods: 1901-1950 and 1951-2000. Using this data we calculated the seasonality index for each period. Seasonality index is calculated on the basis of mean monthly and annual rainfall, and helps in identifying rain distribution trends in a given region. A lower seasonality index indicates a more equitable distribution of rainfall throughout the year, whereas a higher value indicates that most of the rain is confined to a shorter wet season.

What are the findings?

We found that a disturbing trend of falling quantum of rainfall in the pre-monsoon, post monsoon and winter seasons, corresponding with a rise in precipitation during monsoon months, resulted in a rise in the seasonality index. It was found that during the winter season (January and February), all districts in the western and central parts of the state are receiving less than 10 mm of rainfall, whereas during the pre-monsoon season (March to May), there is a definite shift in rainfall distribution with the high rainfall area shifting from the eastern to south-western parts of the state. A major shift in rainfall distribution identified by the study is the decreasing trend of rainfall activity from January to May in all districts in the state (with the exception of Latur, which saw a slight increase in rainfall in May). Increasingly, rainfall activity is getting confined to the monsoon months, which may hit agricultural activities in non-monsoon months.

All but five districts registered a rise in seasonality index during the period from 1950-2000, as compared to the seasonality index in 50 years prior to that period.

What are the implications of your findings?

A higher seasonality index could result in less groundwater recharge, and could also impact pre-monsoon temperature and climate profiles in the form of higher summer temperatures and soil-moisture loss. In most parts of Maharashtra, mean summer temperatures are rising. More studies in the relevant areas would be needed to establish links between change in rainfall patterns and other changes.

Climate change could be partially responsible for the change in rainfall trends while epochal variability might have a part to play. Rainfall studies conducted by me earlier show that since early 1900s, rainfall trends have varied over periods of 25-30 years between wet to dry. Long-term study will be needed before a pattern of epochal variability is established.

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  • To make technical comment, we

    To make technical comment, we need the graphs frequency tables and not simple statements. So, I am not going in to that aspect but I would like to bring to the notice of the readers on the issue "Rainfall studies conducted by me earlier show that since early 1900s, rainfall trends have varied over periods of 25-30 years between wet to dry. Long-term study will be needed before a pattern of epochal variability is established.". My study at all-India Southwest Monsoon rainfall data as published by IITM for 1871 to 1994 showed a 60-year cycle. Now we have completed two such cycles and the third cycle started around 1987. The first 30 years are wet part and next 30 years are dry part. The dry part starts around 2017. the dry to wet 60 year cycle: 1897 to 1956; 1957 to 2016. In these two wet period of 30 years and two dry periods of 30 years. com, published in 2010 & using this study since 1975 (onset of monsoons) -- see my book at www.scribd.Also upto around 1957 the unit of measurement of rainfall was in inches and after 1957 it is in millimeters -- one inch = 25 mm.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • Continuation to above

    Continuation to above comment:

    A student from Pune University worked with me on his Ph.D. He worked on Bhima basin agroclimatology issues using daily rainfall collected from IMD -- I did this for several countries including India -- see my book "Agroclimatic/agrometeorological techniques: As applicable to dry-land agriculture" -- www.scribd.com.
    His thesis may be available in Pune University library or geography department library.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply