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Mongabay Series: Connected Environments , Flood and drought
Southern India’s 2016-2018 drought was the worst in 150 years
- A severe drought that hit southern India during 2016-2018 was the worst to hit the region over the past 150 years and was associated with a deficit in the northeastern monsoon.
- Drought conditions linked to northeastern monsoonal rainfall across southern India are associated with cool phases of the tropical Indo-Pacific Ocean. Cool phases of the Pacific Ocean are known as La Niña.
- If severe droughts in southern India are linked to La Niña, they could potentially be predicted, said an independent expert.
Southern India was hit by severe drought from 2016 to 2018 arising from low rainfall during the northeast monsoon, which occurs during the winter. So severe was the impact that a water crisis erupted in Chennai, India’s sixth-largest city of 11 million inhabitants, as four of the city’s major reservoirs went bone-dry and groundwater levels plummeted. In the summer of 2019, a “Day Zero” was declared and residents scrambled to obtain water from tankers.
Now, after examining rainfall data over the past 150 years, researchers in India and the US conclude that the 2016-2018 northeast monsoon drought was unprecedented with more than 40 percent deficit in northeast monsoonal rainfall during the three years.
The recent drought was worse than the Great Drought of 1874-1876 that led to crop failure, which in turn resulted in the Great Madras Famine of 1876 to 1878 that claimed millions of lives. The team demonstrates that cool phases in the equatorial Indian and Pacific Oceans are associated with the rainfall deficit.
“The consecutive failure of the northeast monsoon can result in a water crisis in Southern India,” lead author Vimal Mishra, associate professor at Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, told Mongabay-India, adding that “it has considerable implications to agricultural productivity.”
While India receives most of its annual rainfall during the Indian summer monsoon (June to September), southern India receives about 40 percent of its rainfall from October to December in what is known as the northeastern monsoon (NEM) or the winter monsoon. It is crucial for drinking water and agriculture contributing to the livelihood of millions.
The southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu continuously declared drought from 2016 to 2018 linked to low northeast monsoonal rainfall. Over 60 percent of the rural population in southern India is engaged in agriculture and relies on rainfall from the winter monsoon.
Failure of the northeast monsoon
How severe was the recent drought compared to those Southern India has experienced in the past? What are the causes of the deficit in the northeast monsoon? Mishra’s team sought to answer these questions.
To investigate the long-term history of NEM droughts in the region, the team used rainfall observations from the India Meteorology Department from 1870 to 2018. Data on total water storage was obtained from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites for April 2002 to June 2017 while the GRACE Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission provided data for 2018 onwards.
Over the past 150 years, there were five main periods of drought with more than 29 percent deficit in rainfall (1876, 2016, 1938, 1988, and 1974 in order of severity). Looking at single year rainfalls, 1876 was the driest year with a precipitation deficit of 69 percent followed by 2016 with a deficit of 63 percent. But when considering cumulative rainfall over three years, 2016 to 2018 was the worst NEM drought with a precipitation deficit of 45 percent while the 1874 to 1876 drought, or the Great Drought as it is known, was the second-worst with a deficit of 37 percent.
The GRACE satellite indicated that total water loss in Southern India in December 2016 was 79 cubic kilometres (km3) while the GRACE-FO data showed that the loss was 46.5 km3 in June 2017 and 41.7 km3 in June 2019. Loss in total water storage likely resulted in significant depletion of groundwater in the region, say the authors.
What factors were associated with deficits in the northeast monsoon?
The team examined sea surface temperatures (SST), sea-level pressure and wind fields during the winter monsoon to understand how circulation patterns affect variability in northeast monsoonal rainfall. Sea surface temperature over the equatorial Indian and Pacific Oceans affects year-to-year variability of the northeast monsoon, explained Mishra. “SST anomalies cooler than normal are linked to a weak northeast monsoon.”
In 2016 and 2017, cool SST anomalies prevailed in the tropical Indo-Pacific Ocean and were associated with La Niña in the central Pacific, the researchers observed. La Niña is a climate pattern that occurs irregularly every two to seven years. During La Niña, the surface waters over the equatorial Pacific Ocean are cool and this affects global weather patterns.
At the same time, the researchers noted anomalous cooling was seen in the Indian Ocean. Such patterns along with those seen in sea-level pressure and surface-air temperatures gave rise to anomalous westerlies in the equatorial Indian Ocean, which weakened moisture transport from the Bay of Bengal during the northeast monsoon, explained the authors.
Interestingly, the study revealed that out of five of the major droughts that struck southern India over the past 150 years, four occurred during La Niña.
Deepti Singh, assistant professor at Washington State University, who was not connected with the study, notes that the paper “links the recent severe, multi-year drought primarily to La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean in 2016-2017 and 2017-18.”
This finding “implies that there is potential to predict them a few months in advance since La Niña events can be predicted with some skill in the summer,” said Singh, adding that “this means that stakeholders can prepare for and mitigate their impacts.”
While the study does not explain what made the 2016-2018 drought one of the strongest on record, “it demonstrates that natural climate variability can lead to extreme events.” She stresses that a better understanding of these drivers can inform our ability to predict severe droughts in the future. “Timely predictions of such events can help better manage and potentially reduce their societal impacts,” Singh says.
“This is particularly important since extreme La Niña conditions are projected to become more frequent with warming and if this link holds, it might mean increasing drought risks to the region, which will likely be worsened by hotter conditions. ”
Mishra, V., Thirumalai, K., Jain, S., & Aadhar, S. (2021). Unprecedented drought in South India and recent water scarcity. Environmental Research Letters , 16 (5), 054007.
Banner image: Climate change can increase the frequency of drought conditions in India. Photo by Christopher Michel/Flickr.
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Repeated multi-year droughts hit india over last 1,000 years, water policies need reassessment: study.
Southwest monsoon could switch into a drought-prone mode, lasting decades in the future
By Rohini Krishnamurthy
Published: monday 26 september 2022.
India witnessed repeated multi-year droughts over the last thousand years, predominately before 1871, a new study has predicted.
This contrasts with the drought history of the post-1871 era. The country saw only one instance of a three-year-long drought during this period, from 1985-1987, the study published September 19, 2022, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science highlighted .
Subcontinent-wide severe droughts, too, have become rare, with only five such instances over the last 150 years.
The southwest monsoon could switch into a drought-prone mode, lasting decades in the future, the authors of the study warned.
India’s current water resources, sustainability and mitigation policies do not consider the possibility of multi-year droughts in the future. The researchers make a case for reassessing policies.
Gayatri Kathayat and her colleagues arrived at these findings by reconstructing monsoon records.
“We have 150 years of instrumental data. But we did not know what monsoons looked like in the past. Everything was like a black hole,” Kathayat, an author of the study, told Down To Earth.
This quest took them to Mawmluh cave, Cherrapunji, one of the wettest regions in the world.
The researchers studied geological formations called stalagmites, mineral deposits formed by flowing, dripping, or seeping water to make the reconstruction possible.
These long cylindrical structures act as record-keepers of past climates. The researchers estimated the value of delta O-18 from these structures.
Delta O-18 measures the ratio of stable isotopes or variants of oxygen. A positive delta O-18 value signals drier conditions, while a negative one indicates wetter conditions, Kathayat explained.
They compared their data with documented drought records, famines, mass mortality events and geopolitical changes in the Indian subcontinent.
Droughts are the reasons behind most famines in India before the British period, between the 1500s and 1770s, the study noted.
Their data agreed with documented records of severe droughts in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Deindustrialisation occurred in India by mid 19th centuary as the country lost most of its export market, the report found.
This supports the theory that a “drastic slump in agricultural productivity and the fragmentation of the Mughal Empire sowed the seeds of India’s deindustrialisation,” the researchers wrote.
Climate, possibly, led to India’s deindustrialisation, they added.
Only roughly 20 per cent and 50 per cent of the historic droughts appear to have co-occurred with the El Nino event. El Nino is a climate pattern describing the unusual surface water warming in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean.
Peaks in El Nino activity in the 1640s and 1800s corresponded with increased historical drought frequency, the study showed.
This is consistent with patterns post-1871. Less than 50 per cent of the southwest monsoon droughts have co-occurred with the El Nino events, the researchers pointed out.
This suggests other factors could have also been involved.
The researchers hope to gain more insights into the drivers of multi-year droughts. “We know when it happened and where it happened. But we don’t know why it happened,” Kathayat added.
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Rainfall forecast and drought analysis for recent and forthcoming years in india.
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Share and Cite
Poornima, S.; Pushpalatha, M.; Jana, R.B.; Patti, L.A. Rainfall Forecast and Drought Analysis for Recent and Forthcoming Years in India. Water 2023 , 15 , 592. https://doi.org/10.3390/w15030592
Poornima S, Pushpalatha M, Jana RB, Patti LA. Rainfall Forecast and Drought Analysis for Recent and Forthcoming Years in India. Water . 2023; 15(3):592. https://doi.org/10.3390/w15030592
Poornima, S., M. Pushpalatha, Raghavendra B. Jana, and Laxmi Anusri Patti. 2023. "Rainfall Forecast and Drought Analysis for Recent and Forthcoming Years in India" Water 15, no. 3: 592. https://doi.org/10.3390/w15030592
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- 1. DROUGHT 1Drought Indian case studies Indian case studies
- 2. Drought is an extended period of months or years when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply whether surface or underground water. Generally, this occurs when a region receives consistently below average precipitation. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region. Although droughts can persist for several years, even a short, intense drought can cause significant damage and harm the local economy. Many plant species, such as cacti, have adaptations such as reduced leaf area and waxy cuticles to enhance their ability to tolerate drought. Some others survive dry periods as buried seeds. Semi-permanent drought produces arid biomes such as deserts and grasslands. Most arid ecosystems have inherently low productivity. 2 We can feel the dryness in your throat. The land is barren and covered in thin dust. cracks appear in the earth. This is drought, when water is so scarce that the existence of life becomes threatened. How do humans effects from drought? INTRODUCTION Drought Indian case studies
- 3. Physical aspects also used to classify drought. They clubbed into three major groups: Metrological Agriculture Hydrological 3Drought Indian case studies
- 4. 1. Less rainfall: 2. High Air pressure: When there is high air pressure, air falls instead of rising. With the air pressing down in a high pressure zone, no currents of water vapor are carried upward. As a result, no condensation occurs, and little rain falls to earth. 3. Low air pressure: Low-pressure systems see more cloudy, stormy weather. Usually, however, we experience both high- and low-pressure systems. 4. Monsoon role: Usually, summer winds known as monsoons carry water vapor north from the Indian Ocean inland, providing desperately needed rain. Sometimes, however, instead of blowing from north to south, they blow east to west. When that happens, the vapor doesn’t leave the Indian Ocean and many people suffer from the resulting droughts. 5. Water Vapor role: Droughts occur because water vapor is not brought by air currents to the right areas at the right times. Water that evaporates from the oceans is brought inland by wind to regions where it is needed. However, sometimes those winds are not strong enough. 4Drought Indian case studies
- 5. 6. Moisture: In some states, moisture is carried up from the ocean by blowing winds. This moisture is then pushed by other winds until it reaches the location. However, if the winds don’t blow at the right time, in the right direction, or with enough force, the moisture falls in other areas and suffers from drought. 7. Mountains region wind: Mountains can prevent wind from blowing moisture to needed regions. As air is moving past a mountain range, it is forced to rise in order to pass over the peaks. However, as the air rises, it becomes colder and the vapor condenses into rain or snow. When the air mass finally makes it over the mountain, it has lost much of its vapor. This is another reason why many deserts are found on the side of a mountain facing away from the ocean. This phenomenon is known as the rain shadow effect. 8. Rainfall pressure: Generally, rainfall is related to the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, combined with the upward forcing of the air mass containing that water vapor. If either of these are reduced, the result is a drought. 5Drought Indian case studies
- 6. 9. Global warming: Human activity can directly trigger exacerbating factors such as over farming, excessive irrigation, deforestation, and erosion adversely impact the ability of the land to capture and hold water. 10. Decline in groundwater : India has seen a sharp decline in groundwater levels, leading to a fall in supply, saline water encroachment and the drying of springs and shallow aquifers. Around 50% of the total irrigated area in the country is now dependent on groundwater, and 60% of irrigated food production depends on irrigation from groundwater wells. 11. Depletion of forest : The rapid depletion of forest cover is also seen as one of the reasons for water stress and drought. India has a forest cover of 76 million hectares, or 23% of its total geographical area – much lower than the prescribed global norm of 33%. 12. Rainwater harvesting : Combined with these and a host of other factors – poor irrigation systems, pressure from the increasing industrial use of water is the appalling indifference displayed towards rainwater harvesting. Little has been done over the years to drought- proof the country, when community based rainwater harvesting measures could easily accomplish this feat. 6Drought Indian case studies
- 7. 14. Rainwater harvesting : Combined with these and a host of other factors – poor irrigation systems, pressure from the increasing industrial use of water is the appalling indifference displayed towards rainwater harvesting. Little has been done over the years to drought-proof the country, when community based rainwater harvesting measures could easily accomplish this feat. 7Drought Indian case studies
- 8. Meteorology · Inadequate monsoon rainfall. · High temperature & evaporation, wind speed. · Unseasoned rains & fog / snowfall. Water Resources · Inadequate water availability, high water loss in storage & distribution, utilities. · Over exploitation of surface & ground water. Agriculture- Crop Yield · Shift in agricultural practices(low to moderate water demand crops to high crops). · Crop damage due to rain & snow / pest. Population · High greater rate of human & animals. · Location of high water consuming milestones at semi arid / arid regions. 8Drought Indian case studies
- 9. Drought in India has resulted in tens of millions of deaths over the course of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Indian agriculture is heavily dependent on the climate of India: a favorable southwest summer monsoon is critical in securing water for irrigating Indian crops. In some parts of India, the failure of the monsoons result in water shortages, resulting in below-average crop yields. This is particularly true of major drought-prone regions such as southern and eastern Maharashtra, Karnataka, Haryana , Gujarat, and Rajasthan. In the past, droughts have periodically led to major Indian famines, including the Bengal famine of 1770, in which up to one third of the population in affected areas died; the 1876–1877 famine, in which over five million people died; and the 1899 famine, in which over 4.5 million died. 9Drought Indian case studies
- 10. 10Drought Indian case studies
- 11. 11Drought Indian case studies
- 12. 12 0 200000 400000 600000 800000 1000000 1200000 1400000 1600000 1979 1982 1983 1987 2013 Area Affected in India by Drought Area Affected in (Km sq.) Drought Indian case studies
- 13. 13 0 50000000 100000000 150000000 200000000 250000000 300000000 1979 1982 1983 1987 2013 People affected in India by Drought People affected Drought Indian case studies
- 14. Drought 14Drought Indian case studies
- 15. (115075) (115076) 15Drought Indian case studies
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Extreme droughts and corresponding Summer Monsoon: A Case Study of 2009 Indian Drought
- Pramod Kumar DST-CPR, School of Public Policy, IIT Delhi, New Delhi, India
Drought is a sustained result of continuous surface and atmospheric heating and moisture deficit. In general, drought assessment is made based on various indices. However, the drought dynamics and associated surface energetics about the corresponding Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM, i.e., June, July, August and September-JJAS) still needs to be better understood. Prolonged surface heating causes reduction of soil moisture, surface/subsurface runoff and atmospheric moisture. Excess surface heating results from positive surface energy budget, which is computed using the term, surface net solar radiation (SNSR), surface net thermal radiation (SNTR), surface sensible heat flux (SSHF), and surface latent heat flux (SLHF). It may also be the possible reason for enhanced convection. Convection also depends on the moisture holding capacity of the atmosphere, which increases with increasing air temperature. These processes lead to moisture content deficit and rainfall suppression due to moisture divergence from the convective sources. India Meteorological Department (IMD) (station and 0.25° gridded) and European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) ERA-Interim reanalysis (0.25° resolution) datasets are used to study the extreme drought events. Drought indices such as Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI), Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI), Soil Moisture Index (SMI) and Sensible Heat Index (SHI) are used. Results indicate that anomalous lowering of available surface soil moisture and increase of surface sensible heat flux is a possible cause for enhancing extreme drought during the 2009 ISM. The associated Hadley circulation shows anomalous weakening, which led to reduced northward moisture transport from the southern oceans, further acerbating moisture deficit. Most parts of India suffered from anomalous decrement in specific humidity in the lower to upper troposphere and related precipitation scarcity during the drought period. The atmosphere’s increased moisture holding capacity sets a weak monsoon due to moisture divergence from ocean/local convection. However, likely, the excessive surface warming (due to SNSR/SNTR trapped into the surface) led to the extreme drought during 2009 ISM.
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Urban Drought pp 155–167 Cite as
Urban Droughts in India: Case Study of Delhi
- Shyamli Singh 4 &
- Vinod K. Sharma 4
- First Online: 31 December 2018
Part of the Disaster Risk Reduction book series (DRR)
Delhi pioneers in tabling its climate change adaptation action plan in year 2009–2012 with a Water Mission jacketing water conservation, recycling, and distribution of water. The action plan deals with river water sharing pact with other neighboring states, decentralization of wastewater treatment system, connections, and treatment of drain water through interception sewer project. Revival of water bodies and recharging of rainwater, Delhi is having acute water shortage every year and needs long-term strategy for mitigating urban drought. There is a need to include urban drought as one of natural disaster and have its separate guidelines and preparedness plan as in California (USA) and other developed countries. The chapter deals with existing situation of water availability, well known facts establishing climate change such as rise in temperature, intensity of rainfall, storms and cloud bursts. The climate-related extreme events, viz floods and droughts show an increased occurrence and magnitude too. As Indian economy is agrarian, more emphasis is laid on floods and droughts. Ministry of Agriculture, the nodal ministry for droughts lays emphasis on rural area and agriculture. The urban water scarcity leading to “urban drought” is the responsibility of urban planners and urban municipal authorities. To add to the woes of the already scarce water and sanitation supply, the climate change is slowly but certainly skulking into effect, by the means of altering pattern of rainfall and diminishing groundwater resources. 16.78 million and a population density of 11,320/km 2 is housed in Delhi, Capital of India. The water demand is further increasing because of floating population and tourists. To add to the despairs, the population is gradually increasing every year with continuous migration from rural areas of neighboring states. Delhi is situated on the bank on river Yamuna, flanked by Indo-Gangetic alluvial plains in the North and East, the Thar Desert positions in the west, and the south is laced by the Aravalli. Out of the annual rainfall of 65–72 cm, 75% precipitation is experienced within a span of three months. Summer months from April to June show a maximum temperature of 40–45 °C. Water in summer season particularly in the urban slums need urban drought regulation with legal support, guidelines and regulation on water usage. There is need of sensitization of urban authorities, involving communities and academic institutions, and resident welfare organizations for public awareness. Similar plans can be shared with other metropolitan cities of India to provide water security to the urban population. Mainstreaming disaster risk reduction (DRR) is an imperative pledge of India thus various ministries, viz Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Water Resources, and Ministry of Agriculture the nodal Ministry can conjointly develop an approach for urban drought mitigation. India is committed to mainstream disaster risk reduction (DRR) and hence, Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Water Resources, and Ministry of Agriculture the nodal Ministry can conjointly develop a strategy for urban drought mitigation.
- Climate change
- Urban drought mitigation
- Urban planning
- Water and sanitation
- Capacity building
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Shyamli Singh & Vinod K. Sharma
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Dr. Bhaswati Ray
Graduate School of Media and Governance, Keio University, Fujisawa, Japan
Prof. Rajib Shaw
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Singh, S., Sharma, V.K. (2019). Urban Droughts in India: Case Study of Delhi. In: Ray, B., Shaw, R. (eds) Urban Drought. Disaster Risk Reduction. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-8947-3_10
DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-8947-3_10
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