Climate Change

This may be the driest August in 123 years: Expert

Between August 1 and August 21, India has recorded rainfall of 115.4 millimetres

By Akshit Sangomla
Published: Tuesday 22 August 2023
States like Kerala, India’s gateway to the monsoon, have hardly seen any rain. Photo: iStock

August 2023 may turn out to be the driest August month in the past 123 years, a climate expert has told Down To Earth (DTE).

Between August 1 and August 21, India has recorded rainfall of 115.4 millimetres (mm) and the previous record was held by 2005 when the country received 190.1 mm of rainfall.

Even then the month would end on a devastating note for the Himalayan states, especially Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, with the possibility of extreme rain, flash floods and landslides.

“Given that daily all-India rainfall is likely going to remain below average in the remaining days of August due to a possible break-monsoon situation, there is a very high possibility of August 2023 becoming the new driest August on record,” Akshay Deoras, a research scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, United Kingdom, told DTE.

The southwest monsoon is said to be in a break phase when the main rain causing extended region of low pressure areas known as the monsoon trough moves north of its normal position. Its normal position is mainly over northwest and central India, also known as the core monsoon zone.

During the break monsoon phase the rainfall is concentrated in the foothills of the Himalayas and the Northeast. The latest break monsoon phase had lasted from August 7 to August 18 and was the third longest in the 21st century after 2002 and 2009.

The monsoon trough started shifting northwards again on August 21 and will settle there by August 24, according to Deoras. The earlier break got disrupted by the genesis and movement of a low pressure area that developed over the Bay of Bengal but it failed to activate the monsoon system.

“Since the low pressure system is gone now, the monsoon is returning back to the break state,” Deoras explained.

During the last break monsoon period, heavy to extremely heavy rains in the mountainous states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand had caused flash floods and landslides leading to loss of human lives and infrastructure.  There were 78 deaths due to landslides in different areas of Himachal Pradesh in the week between August 14 and August 20, according to news agency Press Trust of India

The situation could become worse again in the coming days.

“Rainfall will increase in hilly states as well as neighbouring Nepal once again. The forecast for this week suggests a good possibility of heavy rainfall across Uttarakhand, Nepal, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. So the risk of landslides and floods will return,” said Deoras.

On August 21, the India Meteorological Department generated an orange alert (heavy rainfall) for Uttarakhand on August 21, August 22, August 23 and August 24 and for Himachal Pradesh on August 23 and August 24.

Orange alerts for multiple days have also been generated for western Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam by the weather agency.

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