The 2023 monsoon season in India was marked by a series of catastrophic floods and below-average rainfall levels, leaving a significant impact on the country’s agricultural sector. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the four-month monsoon season recorded rainfall at 94% of the long period average (LPA), falling below the normal range of 96% to 104% of LPA.
1. Rainfall Deviations:
India’s typical monsoon rainfall, measured from June to September, normally ranges between 96% and 104% of the LPA, with the LPA being an average of 870mm accumulated over 50 years from 1971 to 2020. The IMD’s initial prediction had forecasted normal rains at 96% of LPA, with a permissible deviation of +/- 4%, a prediction that closely aligned with the realized rainfall of 94%, falling within the lower limit of +/- 4%. However, the distribution of rainfall was far from uniform, with the nation as a whole receiving just 820mm, exhibiting significant spatial variations.
2. Regional Disparities:
Some geographical regions experienced excessive rainfall, such as North-West India (101% of LPA) and Central India (100% of LPA). These regions witnessed devastating floods, particularly in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, and Haryana, where July rains broke a 123-year record. In contrast, East and North-East India encountered the lowest rainfall at 82% of the LPA, leading to drought-like conditions in certain areas, while South India received 92% of the LPA.
3. Impact on Agriculture:
Approximately 18% of India, encompassing key agricultural areas, faced significant rain deficits. These areas include Gangetic West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, East Uttar Pradesh, South Interior Karnataka, Kerala, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, and Tripura. The monsoon season is pivotal for India’s agri-based economy, contributing over 70% of the annual rainfall and playing a crucial role in the cultivation of Kharif crops like paddy and cotton, grown from June to October.
4. Monsoon Extremes:
The 2023 monsoon season was one of extremes, marked by late and sluggish onset in June, below-average performance in June (91%) and August (64%), leading to India’s hottest and driest August in 123 years. However, July and September witnessed vigorous monsoon activity, with a 113% excess of rains. The season also saw a record-breaking 2,742 heavy rainfall events and 32 meteorological stations breaking their all-time rainfall records. Scientists attribute such intense rainfall to the warming atmosphere, which can hold more moisture, causing heavy rains, a phenomenon expected to increase due to climate change.
5. El Niño Influence:
The presence of El Niño, an oceanic phenomenon characterized by above-normal temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, had a complex interplay with the Indian monsoon rainfall in 2023. Weak El Niño conditions in July escalated to moderate levels in August and September. Although there is no direct correlation between El Niño and monsoon rains, it is generally associated with below-normal rainfall. However, the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) played a compensatory role in the later phase of the monsoon season, helping normalize the rainfall anomaly.
6. Delayed Monsoon Retreat:
The monsoon system began its retreat from west Rajasthan on September 25, experiencing an eight-day delay compared to usual patterns. The withdrawal is expected to conclude by October 15.
The 2023 monsoon season in India left a significant imprint with its below-normal rainfall, devastating floods, and record-breaking weather events. The complex interplay of El Niño and the Indian Ocean Dipole added to the season’s unpredictability. As the monsoon retreats, its impact on agriculture and water resources remains a matter of concern for India’s economy and ecosystem.
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Source: Zee Business