The impact of climate change on Indian Monsoon has been overwhelming in the past decade. Climate change has been influencing the Indian monsoon, which is a critical weather phenomenon for the Indian subcontinent. The monsoon, characterized by seasonal winds and heavy rainfall, plays a crucial role in India’s agriculture and water resources. Read here to learn more.
In the past few years, several studies have highlighted the impact of climate change on the Indian monsoon, including the extreme rainfall events in several parts of the country.
Climate change is affecting the Indian monsoon in multifaceted ways, posing challenges to agriculture, water resources, and ecosystem dynamics.
Adaptation and mitigation strategies are crucial for minimizing the negative impacts and building resilience in the face of a changing climate.
Impact of climate change on Indian monsoon
The Indian monsoon has well-known features, such as the onset, the withdrawal, the active and break periods, and low-pressure systems (or monsoon depressions).
Every aspect of the monsoon has been affected by global warming.
- The monsoon onset has been delayed of late as well as being affected by cyclones. Its withdrawal has been affected by Arctic warming.
- The total seasonal rainfall has also trended downwards for more than seven decades, due to the differential heating of the land versus the ocean due to global warming.
However, this trend has been distributed unevenly through the monsoon season – as manifested in the longer duration but lower intensity of dry spells and the greater intensity of wet spells.
- Intensity and Distribution: Climate change has led to alterations in the intensity and distribution of rainfall during the monsoon season. Some regions may experience more intense and erratic rainfall, while others may face reduced precipitation.
- Increased Extreme Events: There is an observed increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall and intense cyclones during the monsoon season.
- Warming of the Indian Ocean: The Indian Ocean has been warming, influencing the temperature gradient between the land and the ocean. This temperature difference is crucial for the onset and sustenance of the monsoon, and any changes can affect its behavior.
- Delayed Onset: Climate change may contribute to a delay in the onset of the monsoon, affecting the timing of sowing and agricultural activities.
- Extended Withdrawal: Changes in the withdrawal of the monsoon may lead to prolonged rainy seasons or delayed transitions to the dry season, impacting crop cycles.
- Crop Yields: Changes in the monsoon patterns can affect crop yields, with variations in rainfall impacting the success of agricultural seasons.
- Water Management: Unpredictable monsoons can pose challenges for water management and irrigation practices, affecting the availability of water for crops.
- Glacial Retreat: Climate change has led to the retreat of Himalayan glaciers, affecting the flow of rivers and impacting the monsoon’s behavior.
- Water Source Changes: Changes in the availability of water from Himalayan rivers can influence the monsoon and affect downstream regions.
- Sea Level Rise: Rising sea levels can lead to increased coastal flooding during monsoons, affecting low-lying coastal regions and impacting agriculture, fisheries, and human settlements.
- Saltwater Intrusion: Changes in precipitation patterns and sea level rise can lead to saltwater intrusion into coastal aquifers, affecting freshwater resources.
- Ecological Disruption: Changes in rainfall patterns and temperature can disrupt ecosystems, affecting the distribution and behavior of plant and animal species that are dependent on the monsoon for their life cycles.
- Waterborne Diseases: Changes in precipitation patterns can impact water quality and lead to an increased risk of waterborne diseases, affecting public health during and after the monsoon season.
How does climate change impact the monsoon?
India has been witnessing normal to surplus monsoon rains for the last five years.
- In 2023 too, the country is likely to record normal rains but with El Nino building in the Pacific Ocean chances of below normal monsoon cannot be ignored.
- Persistence of intense La Nina conditions, the abnormal warming of the East Indian Ocean, negative Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), southward movement of most of the monsoon depressions and lows, and pre-monsoon heating over the Himalayan region are melting glaciers.
The complex mixture of all the events has had individual as well as combined effects on the monsoon pattern in the subcontinent.
However irrespective of monsoon performance, experts are expecting extreme weather events to increase in the coming years.
A considerable improvement in socioeconomic livelihood and infrastructure will be needed to reduce vulnerability and maintain the same level of risk at 1.5 degrees at higher global warming levels. The risks and drivers of the sequential extremes in India remain unrecognized.
- Rainwater Harvesting: Encourage the adoption of rainwater harvesting techniques at the community and individual levels to capture and store rainwater for agricultural and domestic use.
- Efficient Irrigation Practices: Promote the use of efficient irrigation practices, such as drip irrigation and sprinkler systems, to optimize water use in agriculture.
- Development and Adoption: Invest in research and development of climate-resilient crop varieties that can withstand variations in temperature, precipitation, and extreme weather events.
- Diversification: Promote crop diversification to reduce dependency on specific crops and enhance resilience to changing climatic conditions.
- Improved Forecasting: Invest in advanced weather forecasting and early warning systems to provide farmers and communities with timely information about monsoon onset, intensity, and potential extreme events.
- Community Outreach: Implement community-based education programs to ensure that local communities are well informed and prepared for changes in monsoon patterns.
- Watershed Management: Implement watershed management practices to enhance the conservation of water resources, reduce soil erosion, and improve groundwater recharge.
- Eco-Restoration: Undertake eco-restoration projects to protect and rejuvenate natural water bodies, ensuring a sustainable supply of water during periods of water scarcity.
- Flood-Resilient Infrastructure: Develop infrastructure that is resilient to floods, including improved drainage systems, embankments, and flood-resistant buildings, to minimize the impact of extreme rainfall events.
- Climate-Resilient Buildings: Encourage the construction of climate-resilient infrastructure, particularly in vulnerable coastal areas, to withstand sea-level rise and storm surges.
- Local Knowledge: Tap into traditional and indigenous knowledge of local communities to understand historical weather patterns and implement adaptive practices based on their experiences.
- Capacity Building: Build the capacity of local communities to adapt to changing climatic conditions through training programs and awareness campaigns.
- Afforestation and Reforestation: Implement afforestation and reforestation projects to enhance carbon sequestration, protect watersheds, and maintain ecological balance.
- Preservation of Biodiversity: Protect and preserve biodiversity to maintain ecological resilience and support the adaptation of ecosystems to changing climatic conditions.
Government Initiatives on Climate Change
National Action Plan on Climate Change
- National Solar Mission
- National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency
- National Mission on Sustainable Habitat
- National Water Mission
- National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem
- National Mission for a Green India
- National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture
- National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change.
Global Climate change accords India is part of:
- Montreal Protocol, 1987
- United Nations Climate Change Conference, Copenhagen
- Kyoto Protocol
- The Kyoto mechanisms
- Nagoya Protocol
- Cancun Agreements – 2010
- Durban Climate Change Conference – November/December 2011
- Rio+20 Earth Summit- June 2012, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- Paris Agreement
Adaptation strategies for the impacts of climate change on the Indian monsoon require a multi-faceted and integrated approach.
Collaboration among stakeholders, including government bodies, local communities, researchers, and international partners, is essential to implement and scale up these strategies effectively.
The goal is to build resilience, reduce vulnerabilities, and ensure the sustainable development of regions affected by changing monsoon patterns.
- Global Warming: Impact on Global Climate
- Greenhouse effect
- Climate change and health
- Climate Change and Women
- Climate-resilient health systems
-Article by Swathi Satish