2019 Indian Monsoon — Blessing or Curse?

Guest Essay by Kip Hansen — 17 January 2020

 

featured_imageIn India, the monsoons that bring the rains are not just weather or climate phenomena — they are  mystical and mythical entities —  entwined into the national character and the annual cycle of life.

Now that the 2019 Southwest Monsoon is officially over, it is reported to have delivered 110% of the long-term average amount of rain to this mostly dry sub-continent.  It was just months ago that the international press was touting stories about water problems in Chennai.    You may be more familiar with the previous name of the city, Madras.  The NY Times covered the story and threw in a line: “And then there’s climate change. It doesn’t bear direct blame for Chennai’s water crisis, but it makes it worse. “

Not to let any bad news go to waste, more recent coverage carries headlines:  “India: scores dead as late monsoon rains inundate northern states — More than 100 dead in deluge after delayed rains overwhelm inadequate drainage systems”.  The venerable New York Times last November carried this:  “India’s Ominous Future: Too Little Water, or Far Too Much”  by  Bryan Denton and Somini Sengupta with a lede of “Decades of short-sighted government policies are leaving millions defenseless in the age of climate disruptions – especially the country’s poor.”

In fact, while the 2019 Southwest Monsoon was a bit late arriving, it finally delivered.  At 110% of the long term average, rains have had positive and negative effects.  As nearly-always in India, a above average monsoon brings flooding and death.  This last year?  1,900 reported killed in monsoonal flooding.  Note that the current population of India is believed to be about 1,386,000,000 (yes, that’s better than one and a third billion, with a B).   This is obviously a Climate Emergency!  Or is it?

em-dat_deaths

Way too many humans have died in this year’s flooding, but such numbers are not unusual for India — according to Em-Dat at the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), this is a high year, but not an exceptionally high year, and more or less normal for above-average monsoon years. (Note that the earlier years in the EM-DAT database are not reliable and increases are often due to improved reporting — confirmed with CRED via personal communication.)

For comparison, in 2019, a total of 92 people died from floods in the United States, the majority of these by intentionally (and foolishly, having been warned and warned again) driving their cars onto flooded roads.

Monsoon Prediction

The prediction of India’s monsoon, on which so much of the nation’s well-being depends, is practiced internationally.  For 2019, AccuWeather  issued this is in July 2019:

For the season as a whole, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls anticipates near-normal rainfall across most of southern, eastern and far northern India.  The exceptions may be across the coast of Kerala and southern Karnataka, where a surplus is anticipated.”

 

monsoon_outlook_24_June

WeatherUnderground (The Weather Company, an IBM Business) called for “Another Subpar Monsoon Season Likely for India in 2019”:

“It’s been 25 years since India has had a significantly wetter-than-average monsoon, and 2019 is unlikely to break this streak, according to new outlooks from the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) and The Weather Company, an IBM Business (TWC). The IMD’s latest monsoon outlook, issued on May 31, projects that total national rainfall during the monsoon season (June-September) will end up at 96%, or at the low end of the normal range (96-104%). The margin of model error in the IMD outlook is 4% in either direction—which implies the odds are almost even that 2019’s monsoon rainfall will actually fall below the normal range.”

Since then, several news reports have highlighted that the 2019 monsoon was the rainiest in 25 years.  Let’s take a look: (India has been very careful in its recording of monsoon rainfall)

monsoon_rainfall_800

The green bars are “normal” years — years within +/- 10% of the long-term average.  Red bars are “drought” years and blue bars are flood years.   The original graph only extended to 2017, but I have added on the right hand side the two additional years — 2018 at 91% (shown as -9%) and 2019 at 110% (shown as flood) [source: Reserve Bank of India].

Without bothering with a detailed look, we can see that since 1995 or so (about 25 years), India’s summer monsoons have been below the long-term average far more often than not — with five extraordinary drought years.  And, until 2019, only one year approached the +10 % threshold.

The most recent period looks very similar to the 1900-1930 period, with more drier years than wetter years.

There have been 27 drought years (lower than 90%) and 21 flood years (greater than 110%) — including 2019  —  since 1870.  These are annual national numbers and can give a false impression.  The rainfall is not always even — some localities getting too much and some not enough — even in a normal year.

This year, 2019, the southwest monsoon ran a bit late, by about two weeks, leaving the northwest of India in a heat wave condition.  But, according to the Reserve Bank of India’s Monetary Policy report  for October 2019, The initial delay and deficiency in the south-west monsoon has been mitigated by the resurgence of rains during July-September. Comfortable reservoir levels augur well for rabi sowing and food grains stocks above the buffer norms provide a cushion against potential inflationary pressures.” and “Although the south-west monsoon turned out to be above long period average, its uneven progress – both temporal and spatial – could impinge upon the prospects for agriculture.”

When the monsoon got fully underway, in many areas it was not until September that the heavy rains came.   Heavy rains in less-developed nations lead to problems:  flooding and loss of life, over-stressed sewage systems, streams and rivers filled with street trash and other pollutants — all these the results of infrastructure problems that have never been properly addressed, have been under-addressed, or which have been allowed to build as populations expand without infrastructure keeping up.

 “…leaving millions defenseless in the age of climate disruptions” ?

Do the facts about India’s monsoons support the idea that the last 50 years — roughly the posited global warming period — show “climate disruptions”?

No, the facts do not support such a view — India’s monsoons have whipsawed between drought and flood since modern records began to be kept.  The cyclic nature of El Niños and La Niñas are evident in India’s national rainfall record — El Niño generally bringing less rains and drought and La Niña more rain and flooding. India’s well-maintained national rainfall data set shows no signs of climate disruption.

 

How unusual is a late (or early) monsoon?

long_term_arrival_date

The paper featuring the graph above concludes that in the long term record there can be detected to be an average 2-day later arrival date in the latest 25 years or so, over the earlier period.   The data in the graph is only to 2012.  Visually, one might guess that this effect is due to the fewer years with very early arrival dates in the 1800s.   2019’s two-week delayed arrival is quite late, but not exceptional.

Over a period of more than 200 years, the onset of the Indian Southwest monsoon reliably falls within a 1 month window.  So, as far as monsoon onset is concerned,  as we saw with total rainfall, there is no evidence of climate disruption.

What do we see in the long-term Indian Southwest  Monsoon data?

We see India’s year-to-year weather and when the years are added together, we see India’s climate.  The rainfall record goes back to 1870 — and the monsoon onset in Mumbai (Bombay) goes back to 1780.  These long-term records show a lot of annual variation, both in total rainfall and monsoon onset, but over the centuries long record, amazing stability.

The mostly-dependable rains are a great blessing to the people of rural India bringing good crops and prosperity but  when the rains come too fast and too furious, they are a curse, bringing flooding, loss of property and loss of life.

India, as a nation, has made great strides forward in bringing its people out of poverty — but progress has been uneven, as we would expect, it is not an easy task. To even out the blessings and mitigate the curse of the monsoons,  India needs more general prosperity — higher standards of living — fewer abject slums,  better living conditions for its poor and more and better national and regional infrastructure.

What we do not see in India’s monsoon is  climate change or climate disruption.

# # # # #

Late Addition:

As a result of the most recent monsoon, India’s water reservoirs are in good shape:

Current_Resevoir_Levels

The Central Water Commission reports, as of yesterday, that nearly every reservoir in India is currently above the 10 year average. (There seem to be a few non-reporting areas and one area in the east is shown as 80-100% and the Sundarban Delta area showing a low 60-70%).

 

# # # # #

 Author’s Comment:

It is a bit presumptuous for me to write about India’s monsoons when we have readers here who are actual Indian weather and climate professionals.  I hope they will forgive my trespass — I just mean to present a quick overview and dispel some of the popular press reports of alarming changes in Indian climate.

India is not the only region that has monsoonal patterns of rainfall.

world-wide-monsoons

The Arizona (United States) Department of Transportation warns drivers of the challenges of driving during Arizona’s summer monsoon season.  Northern Australia has a monsoon season that lasts from December through March.

If any readers are from that little patch of blue seen in the graphic above in northwest Canada, I’d like input about the reported monsoonal rains there.

Begin comments with “Kip…” if speaking to me.  [Indicating to whom you are speaking is good for every directed comment.]  Thanks.

# # # # #

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Mark Broderick
January 17, 2020 6:15 am

Kip

“As nearly-always in India, an above average monsoon brings flooding and death. ”

Great post…

Editor
Reply to  Mark Broderick
January 17, 2020 7:56 am

Mark ==> Thanks …. I have a friend who volunteered in India for two months a year for ten years or so — at a health clinic. She keeps me informed.

MM Ali
Reply to  Mark Broderick
January 18, 2020 5:18 pm

Kip,

Great article. The attached link give a different parameter to predict above or below average rainfall. https://www.dropbox.com/s/6j9q0lpx9jj726g/statistical%20evidence-sio-omt-ismr%2Bsuppl%2Bhindu.pdf?dl=0. This worked for the 2018,2019 as well.

MM Ali
Reply to  Kip Hansen
January 18, 2020 7:59 pm

Kim,

I want your critical comments on this paper. Can we write a general article on OMT of the southwest Indian Ocean for monsoon prediction?

MM Ali
Reply to  Kip Hansen
January 19, 2020 4:08 pm

Kip,

Thank you very much. I will write and contact you. By this February end we should be able to give the forecast for 2020. I will send the article by mid February.

Ron Long
January 17, 2020 6:20 am

This report is alarming on several levels. A total of 1,900 people drowned in a regularly recurring (2 days late isn’t late!) monsoon, in a country that worships cows and answers the phone call to the service number on your credit card and they are victims of AGW? Maybe there’s another problem waiting for someone braver than me to blurt out! We’re not headed in a good direction, in my opinion, and when the glacial phase of our current Ice Age returns, what happens? Go Nuclear!

Bryan A
Reply to  Ron Long
January 17, 2020 7:13 am

Got a call from there the other day “Visa Credit Cards” wanting to sell me a Visa Cash Card.
There was no option in the recording to be placed on a “Do Not Call” list so I selected 1 to ring through.
When the Sales Person came on line and began his spiel I asked if he would place me on their “Do Not Call” list. The sales person promptly asked, with a thick Indian accent if I would let him f— me in the a–.
If you have caller ID and see the call is from Visa Cash Cards, don’t bother answering it

michael hart
Reply to  Bryan A
January 17, 2020 10:02 am

Bryan, I think Ron Long may have had a different meaning in mind when he referred to going nuclear.

I think India could do worse than develop their nuclear-electric generation technology before the greens hijack any industrial energy policy needed for 1.3+ billion people. It looks like a fantastic long term investment opportunity.

When the West finally wakes up and realizes our current energy policy has us galloping down shit avenue without a saddle then the pussyfooting around nuclear power will end. It may well be after we are both dead, but someone out of India, China, or Russia will likely be able to clean-up financially by supplying cheap, reliable, safe nuclear generation technology.

Angryscotonfragglerock
Reply to  michael hart
January 18, 2020 12:07 am

They already have (3?) Thorium reactors and are at the forefront (with China?) in developing Thorium MSR. If they succeed, then maybe India will pull its people out of poverty with a plentiful supply of ‘cheap’ electricity.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Bryan A
January 17, 2020 6:10 pm

With IVR systems many are not setup too well. If you press * or # multiple times it usually drops you out of the system, and usually, to a person. I like to repeat what the caller says back to them, it messes with their mind. Problem is even with caller ID they can “buy” new numbers easily. Many money sc@m call centres are setup this way.

Reply to  Patrick MJD
January 17, 2020 11:48 pm

They don’t buy new numbers, they “spoof” (fake) numbers that may not be in service.

Lance
January 17, 2020 6:45 am

That blue patch in Canada is right around Wood Buffalo National Park. I lived in Ft. McMurray for a few years, and don’t EVER recall hearing about a Monsoon up there!
I know it gets cold…-25F right now.

Phil.
Reply to  Lance
January 17, 2020 7:14 am

That world map showing monsoons appears to use a rather different definition than the one I’ve always known: “Monsoon is traditionally defined as a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation”.

Steve Z
Reply to  Phil.
January 17, 2020 9:12 am

I’ve also heard the term “monsoon” used for relatively “heavy” rains in July and August in Arizona, but average rainfall in those months in Phoenix is about 1 inch per month, which would be considered a dry month in most areas of the United States, and only slightly higher than Phoenix precipitation in the winter months of January, February, and March.

The truly heavy monsoon rains in India are extremely important to the people living there, so that bandying about the same term for occasional summer rains in the Arizona desert is definitely inappropriate. In fact, Florida, commonly called the Sunshine State, has much heavier summer “monsoons” than Arizona!

chemman
Reply to  Kip Hansen
January 17, 2020 11:46 am

Kip,
I live in NE Arizona. We have monsoonal rain patterns. Average precipitation in the winter months around 0.6 inches/month. When the summer comes we get increased thunderstorm activity and precipitation in the 1 – 3 inch range per month. Most of that average comes in one or two storms during the month. In 2017 I had over 3 inches in July and 4.5 inches in August. Well above long term averages.

And yes ADOT is correct when we get a “monsoon” it can dump rain at well over 1 inch an hour and the roads will flood very quickly. The receiver for my Vantage Pro II will say ”raining cats and dogs” when we get those high rates of rain fall.

tty
Reply to  Kip Hansen
January 17, 2020 12:27 pm

There actually is a summer monsoon in Arizona. The summer rains there are caused by the same mechanism as the Indian summer monsoon. A heat-induced low-pressure area that draws in wet air from the sea. However the Gulf of California is a pretty weak source of moisture compared to the Indian Ocean, so it is a rather weak monsoon.

Editor
Reply to  Kip Hansen
January 17, 2020 1:38 pm

chemman & tty ==> Thanks for the details and confirming the Arizona monsoon.

GP Hanner
Reply to  Phil.
January 17, 2020 10:48 am

Similar wind patterns prevailed when I lived in Puerto Rico: Cool and rather dry conditions during the winter with winds out of the NNW; slackened winds as summer approached and a wind shift that drove increased thunderstorms and rain showers.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Phil.
January 17, 2020 3:00 pm

That world map showing monsoons appears to use a rather different definition than the one I’ve always known

I have the same issue. My home town is outside of that blob in Australia, and also classified as a sub-tropical climate by most sources, despite being 21 degrees south.

Our climate is definitely tropical, and we have a distinct wet season of between 3 and 4 months, and the rest is very mild, only differing in temperature over the rest of the year. The monsoon is a real and oft-discussed thing here, too. Still waiting for it to break properly now, as it happens.

I also hope the monsoon is not too late in India this year as I’ll be there in August. I’ve been in Mumbai before in August when it’s late, and the temperature and humidity are brutal.

Editor
Reply to  Lance
January 17, 2020 7:59 am

Lance ==> Thanks for your input on that odd spot in Canada. I’ll try to find out more as the day progresses.

Lance
Reply to  Kip Hansen
January 17, 2020 11:33 am

FYI Kip, I worked for Environment Canada many years ago (1978-80) in the High Arctic, and still do work for over 30 years here in Southern Alberta, so I am familiar with weather and “climate”….

Quelgeek
Reply to  Lance
January 17, 2020 8:16 am

I too lived in Ft McMurray for several years. There is certainly more precipitation in the summer but I would not have said it was noticeably wetter there than the rest of Alberta.

Maybe you can measure a difference. A monsoon that you can recognize only by measuring it would be a pretty subtle phenomenon though—barely worth calling a phenomenon never mind a “monsoon”!

Lance
Reply to  Quelgeek
January 17, 2020 11:36 am

Quelgeek, very correct. Alberta’s ‘wet’ months are typically June, May, July. Some years, more, some less! That is our pattern. We are in the “rain shadow” of the Rockies.

tty
Reply to  Quelgeek
January 17, 2020 12:36 pm

That “monsoon” in Canada is of courseNOT a real monsoon. It is rather due to the rain shadow of the Rockies (and the consequent Chinook), which means that fall, winter and spring with mostly westerly winds are dry. In summer more moisture from the Gulf manage to penetrate that far north, and therefore it exceeds the rather odd definition of monsoon used in the map.

Another oddity: eastern China most definitely has a strong summer monsoon, but since it also receives a fair amount of winter rain, it does not qualify as a monsoonal area by that definition

Toto
Reply to  Quelgeek
January 17, 2020 1:31 pm

I tried to find climate data for that region. I found it, but it was not linkable.
If you start here:
https://climate.weather.gc.ca/climate_normals/index_e.html#1971
you can search for stations. There are two “near” Wood Buffalo National Park.
FORT MCMURRAY A (meets WMO standards)
FORT CHIPEWYAN A
Both get a bit of rain in the short summer and not much in the long winter.

Fort Mac:
The record rain in one day was 95 mm in Aug 1976.
The average summer precipitation is 70 to 80 mm per month.

Days with rainfall (0.2 mm or more) in summer, 14 to 16 per month.
Days with 10 mm or more rain in summer, 2 to 2.5 per month.

Monsoon? Nobody told Wikipedia.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsoon

Toto
Reply to  Lance
January 17, 2020 9:59 am

There’s your answer. It’s something to do with the oil sands (“tar sands” to greens). (sarc?)
Comparing to the standard, the Köppen-Geiger climate map, it’s bogus.
http://koeppen-geiger.vu-wien.ac.at/pics/GoogleEarth_3.jpg

Monsoons start at the coast and work inland; they don’t just pop up inland, so the Siberia patch is bogus too.

Editor
Reply to  Toto
January 17, 2020 1:34 pm

Toto ==> I think you’re right — they are using an odd definition for “monsoonal rains” — not a true meteorological definition.

Curious George
Reply to  Lance
January 17, 2020 1:31 pm

Don’t get caught in a Saharan monsoon!

tty
Reply to  Curious George
January 17, 2020 4:32 pm

Actually there is a monsoon at the southern edge of Sahara. Earlier in the Holocene it penetrated much further north.

John Bell
January 17, 2020 6:55 am

One would think that they should don life jackets and also learn to swim.

MarkW
January 17, 2020 6:55 am

110% of average is “far too much”????

This guys are desperate to rebrand any good news.

Robert W Turner
Reply to  MarkW
January 17, 2020 7:33 am

The story of Goldilocks has been revised. She now brings with her an ASTM certified thermometer and says, this porridge is 1.2 standard deviations too low, this porridge is 1.2 standard deviations too high, but this one is completely average.

Rocketscientist
Reply to  Robert W Turner
January 17, 2020 9:12 am

And by the time she gets around to analyzing the data, they are all cold.

Robert W Turner
January 17, 2020 7:25 am

The Southwest North American monsoon is a summer monsoon, July-September, and it stretches farther north. So not sure if that map is too accurate.

Oldseadog
Reply to  Kip Hansen
January 17, 2020 9:03 am

Good grief, Kip, are you suggesting that “climate scientists” look out of the window or even go for a walk outside?????? Cruel man, you mustn’t let them leave the comfort of their computer screens.

Polski
January 17, 2020 9:13 am

I am red-green colour blind, genetically my mom’s fault apparently. So is my brother made painfully aware as he drove through a red light that he thought was amber 30 years ago. I look at colour coded graphs and just guess!

Don K
Reply to  Kip Hansen
January 17, 2020 4:05 pm

Kip ” I have always been “confused” (or so I am told) by the differences between blues and greens”

FWIW the Japanese didn’t distinguish linguistically between blue and green until relatively recently. It’s not that they can’t see the difference. It’s just that they tend to treat green as a shade of blue. I’m told that if your Japanese is a lot better than mine you’ll find that a lot of things we gaijin think of as green — traffic lights for example — are blue (ao) to a Nihonjin.

It would appear that you have 125,000,000 people on your side.

https://www.nihongomaster.com/blog/learn-traditional-japanese-colors/

Bryan A
Reply to  Polski
January 17, 2020 9:51 am

If you look at 3D Stereoscopic images through the appropriate color coded glasses do you still get the 3D effect? Presumably the light cancelling effect of the colored lens would still allow you to enjoy color coded imagery and realize the 3D visualization

Bill Rocks
January 17, 2020 9:18 am

Kip,

Good article. Thanks for the data and interpretations. Your skillful work is appreciated.

As to some of the secondary comments, I, too, know well the summer monsoon of the Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico mountains having hunkered down in many a storm. Rain, lightening, hail, local flash floods. Episodes of clicking metal on my pack or ice axe and hair-raising polarization. These storms begin very quickly; if you see cumulous clouds before noon, watch out in the afternoon.

One time on the summit ridge of Culebra Peak before the afternoon storm, I gazed down a 2000-foot cirque wall and could see the streaky, foggy air mass rushing upward right in front of me, moving skyward to release thermal energy high in the atmosphere. That vertical river of cloudy air was an unforgettable sight.

Vuk
January 17, 2020 9:41 am

There is something odd about Indian monsoon.
Some years ago I was researching the Earth’s magnetic field and came across strong 16 year periodicity in its secular variability. Subsequently I looked at spectral response of many climate related data, and found that only two sets of data: the Arctic temperature and Himalayan monsoon have same 16 year periodicity.
http://www.vukcevic.co.uk/EAH.htm
note: no the AMO 9yr or the solar 11yr signal in either of two sets of data, but suddenly both lock into the Earth’s field.
I considered number of possibilities:
– When the warm Indian Ocean air rises up the Himalayas slopes it punctures hole into tropopause resulting in the sudden stratospheric warming and its consequences ?
– Siberian winter blocking extended so far to the south linking into monsoon winter high drawing the warm air up into the Arctic ?
– monsoons move huge amounts of water from equatorial region into higher latitude, from zero to 8km altitude where it is deposited, but eventually ends back into Indian ocean, with the cycle taking number of years. Whole process might have an effect on the Earth’s rotation (angular momentum factor), whereby it is the monsoon that is the primary trigger for both the magnetic field and the Arctic temperature variability.
– and finally, may not be related but worth mentioning that the global sea surface temperature – SST, is strongly correlated to the variability in the Earth’s magnetic field intensity.
http://www.vukcevic.co.uk/SST-GMF.htm
any other ideas ?

Editor
Reply to  Vuk
January 17, 2020 1:43 pm

Vuk ==> Interesting ideas — figuring that stuff out is what Climate Science is supposed to be doing….

FranBC
January 17, 2020 9:43 am

Where I grew up in Central India, we had to have several pump platforms in the well because the water table rose and fell more than 30 feet between the dry and wet seasons. Well-digging could only be done in the dry season. My dad was into hand dug well technology (all written up unattributed in current WHO manuals), so we would wait for the last minute to go to Kashmir for a holiday. One year, coming back in the middle of the rains, boy did we get bedbugs from the sleeping car on the train. If travelling in India, its best to put bedrolls used on trains out in the sun to bake for a day. Mum had a 40lb bag of gamixane (lindane) and I remember putting handfuls into my bed.

Editor
Reply to  FranBC
January 17, 2020 1:45 pm

FranBC ==> Thanks for the firsthand story out of India. PS: Bedbugs give me the creeps…..

Editor
January 17, 2020 9:45 am

Kip – You mention El Nino, but I would have thought that the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) would be a better reference. Even the ABC (or was it the BBC?) reported that Australia’s 2019 drought was caused by the IOD. From your article there seems to be a very strong negative correlation between India’s rainfall and Australia’s: less rain in India over recent decades compared with earlier decades, but more in Australia (https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/01/04/australia-fires-and-misses/), and a very wet 2019 in India vs very dry in Australia.

This makes sense mechanically: When the IOD is negative, as it has tended to be over recent decades, the Indian Ocean is cooler near India (= less rain) and warmer near Australia (= more rain). And vice versa when the IOD is positive, of course. In 2019 the IOD was positive.

[I’m writing from memory, so I might have got the “positive” and “negative” wrong, but the point is valid based on warmer = wetter and cooler = drier.]

Editor
Reply to  Mike Jonas
January 17, 2020 1:52 pm

Mike ==> The El Niño/La Niña observations is just that — just a noticeable correlation — not meant to be causal. And, I mention it as it is shown on the chart I used for monsoonal rainfall….nearly all the El Niño years have below average rainfall and the same in reverse for La Niña years.

I don’t know the relationship between IOD and the Niños…..they can’t be entirely independent, can they?

Abolition Man
January 17, 2020 10:18 am

Thanks, Kip for another interesting essay. Having successfully escape from Commifornia nearly a decade ago I have come to love the frequent rains of the Southwest monsoon; hummingbirds and lightning bolts abound. Most of the monsoon rain falls at higher elevations than the Phoenix metro area, but it does get its share. I had a great camping trip to the Grand Canyon and points south a few years back that will forever color my view on this phenomenon.
I met my sister in Flagstaff and drove en caravan to the Grand Canyon for a couple days of hiking and photography. Little did we realize that despite it being early October there would be monsoon storms due to a Pacific hurricane remnant coming up from the southwest. We gave up on the Grand Canyon and moved early south of Flagstaff to an area that had several mountain lakes I wanted to fish. We got installed at our campsite a day earlier than scheduled and I set up an awning and my trusty old 8-man tent to give us shelter. Apparently we had angered the local rain gods (I think it was my sister or her dogs) as a thunder cell parked over us and proceeded to attempt to wash or blow our tent away with us in it. I don’t know how many inches of rain fell in that location but it was near enough to float me around on my air bed inside the tent. The clouds followed us around for the next few days; always blowing up a storm over the spots we picked for fishing or hiking. I always laugh when I remember it; got a new tent but I think I’ll get a little trailer, too.

tty
Reply to  Abolition Man
January 17, 2020 12:41 pm

I can well believe you. During forty years of camping on four continents, the only time I was ever flooded was near Tucson.

Editor
Reply to  Abolition Man
January 17, 2020 1:55 pm

Abolition Man ==> Great story, thanks for sharing. I spent much of my early years camping all round the Southwest — Sierras and the deserts — we didn’t have or use tents — my father believed in literally sleeping under the stars — rain or shine.

January 17, 2020 11:22 am

“The cyclic nature of El Niños and La Niñas are evident in India’s national rainfall record — El Niño generally bringing less rains and drought and La Niña more rain and flooding”

Also the Indian Ocean Dipole

Editor
Reply to  Chaamjamal
January 17, 2020 2:02 pm

Chaamjamal ==> Yes, I believe that is correct — my graphic based on data from the Institute of Tropical Meteorology and are from this link:
https://www.tropmet.res.in/~kolli/MOL/Monsoon/Historical/air.html
which gives some other interssting information and sources Dr. D.R. Kothawale and Dr.Jayashree Revadekar.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
January 17, 2020 4:11 pm

Brilliant.

tty
January 17, 2020 12:46 pm

By the way the correct definition of a monsoonal climate is that it is characterized by seasonally reversing wind direction and corresponding precipitation seasonality driven by the differential heating of land and sea.

Editor
Reply to  tty
January 17, 2020 2:15 pm

tty ==> The world monsoon chart is taken (as indicated) from

https://www.umbrella.bridge.bristol.ac.uk/education/what-are-monsoons/

posted by Dr. Alex Farnsworth, whose bio page there states:

“Alex Farnsworth:
I am a Senior Research Associate based in the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol. My primary research interests centres on the role of the hydrological cycle in climate change, specifically on precipitation dynamics and the role of monsoon systems.”

The link above goes into quite a technical discussion of their definition of monsoons.

Editor
Reply to  tty
January 17, 2020 3:04 pm

tty ==> The UMBRELLA groups uses this definition for monsoonal rains in the graphic I used — I should have included their caption:

“Regions where at least 70% of annual precipitation occurs in the 5-month seasons indicated. This is only one of many possible definitions of monsoon regimes around the globe. “

tty
Reply to  Kip Hansen
January 17, 2020 4:40 pm

The difficulty with that definition it is that it conflicts with other parts of their definition, e g that monsoons are connected with the motion of the ITCZ (which is, of course, true).

Christopher Chantrill
January 17, 2020 4:10 pm

I have been reading “The British Conquest and Domination of India” by Sir Penderel Moon, all 1200 pages of it. One of the interesting things that Moon brings out is the development of governing-class conventional wisdom about everything from taxation to public works and self rule.

Drought and famine became a scandal in the British Raj at or about 1800. Partly, I think because newspapers and communications could actually spread the news of drought outside the affected area.

It was considered a Bad Thing if people under British rule starved and died.

Yeah. In the old days before the fascist nation state people just starved and died. And nobody cared.

As time went by the Brits in India decided they should “do something” about famine, and so they began to plan and construct irrigation systems. And build railways so they could actually move food from surplus to famine areas.

Of course, railways were an evil white supremacist plot and should be canceled by all ethical people.

See, without modern transportations systems, there is almost nothing governments can do about drought and famine.

January 17, 2020 4:16 pm

Kip, thanks for the update and stats. Very well done and informative. As is often the case, we see that weather extremes are part of climate. Distinguishing trends in climate and associated weather extremes is much more difficult than most people realize. More food for thought in that regard here for anyone interested:
https://oz4caster.wordpress.com/2019/11/14/climate-and-weather-extremes/

Patrick MJD
January 17, 2020 4:49 pm

I think a monsoon came to South East Australia yesterday, all day, and it is still raining today, Saturday just about noon.

AntonyIndia
January 18, 2020 2:10 am

Ugly: “Nature” wades into pure Politics, this time in India about which they are ill informed. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00085-6

The law provides a path to citizenship for recent refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. It is a means to providing permanent sanctuary for religious minorities fleeing hardship or persecution in these countries — an intention that is to be commended. What is troubling is that decisions on who can — and cannot — apply for citizenship will be made on the basis of religious belief. Muslims are to be excluded, which is a violation of the foundational principle that people of all faiths and none must be equal in law.

Yes, India gets scolded for wanting to shelter persecuted minority victims next door while Pakistan, Afghanistan plus Bangladesh stay un-mentioned although they protect the perps unofficially and officially for decades. They are self declared Islamic states. Leftwing students from New Delhi’s JNU campus first destroyed the CCTV server room and later complained about police actions against them.
https://swarajyamag.com/insta/jnusu-president-aishe-ghosh-booked-for-violently-attacking-jnu-security-guards-vandalising-server-room

Again Politics cloud Nature’s observation and reasoning capacities.

AntonyIndia
January 18, 2020 3:00 am

Now regarding the article above: good job! I say that as a geographer living in (South) India close to three decades. Average rainfall has hardly changed. It is and was always irregular due to hits and misses of tropical cyclones series. Temperatures have gone up a bit on average but irregularly too.

By the way Drought and Floods are a source of income for some NGOs here: https://archive.org/stream/EveryoneLovesAGoodDrought/drought-sainath_djvu.txt
The Climate Change hype is a god send for them; oil on their fire.

TG Brown
January 18, 2020 3:35 am

Suggestion: If the first figure were normalized to measure deaths as a fraction of population (rather than presented in raw numbers), one would see a visible decrease in the # of deaths per monsoon season, with the obvious exception of the 2013 floods (which, by the way, devastated southern Pakistan as well).

goldminor
January 18, 2020 1:29 pm

@ Kip Hansen … Take a look at Silso’s excess hemispheric sunspot graph. I have been looking at this graph for its close correlation to changes in the ENSO regions. Now in looking at the All India graph above it looks highly probable for good correlation to the monsoon graph, imo. … http://www.sidc.be/images/wnosuf.png

I can see many points where a positive monsoon correlates with the northern hemisphere of the sun holding the excess sunspots. Similarly, many of the negative monsoon points correlate with the southern hemisphere holding the excess sunspots. It raises the possibility of being able to predict the monsoon.

goldminor
Reply to  Kip Hansen
January 18, 2020 5:56 pm

There are some strongly correlated years, and there are some groups of years and individual years where there is no correlation. Here is an example of good correlation, imo.

Here is a partial read of how the two graphs are strongly correlated. India 2019 big monsoon, Silso 2019 north(green) ssn dominant. India 2018 weak monsoon, Silso note how the green necks down close to zero at beginning of 2018. India 2016/17, carry over from the big El Nino??? India 2014/15, Silso big south ssn surge. India 2013, Silso enough green for positive monsoon. India 2012, Silso necks down close to zero green. India 2011, Silso strong green. India 2010. Silso starts out weak green. India 2009, Silso ends red and starts minimal green at solar minimum.

Then there are years with no match. A monsoon does have that directional wind component, ocean temps component, which would be separate from solar influences. The correlation is much easier to see when looking at the ENSO regions and the Silso graph. Plus almost the entire MEI correlates well with this idea. I wrote up a short piece which highlights how the connection is clearly seen over the years of that last big El Nino. I think that I will now finally be able to accurately forecast ENSO region temperature shifts, approximately 6 months prior to the shift. … https://goldminor.wordpress.com/2020/01/17/sun-enso-atmospheric-temps-correlation/

MM Ali
January 18, 2020 5:31 pm

Kip,
Great article. The below link gives another parameter to pridict above or below average Indian southwest monsoon rainfall. It works better than the other existing ocean atmospheric indices. It worked for 2018, 2019 as well.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/6j9q0lpx9jj726g/statistical%20evidence-sio-omt-ismr%2Bsuppl%2Bhindu.pdf?dl=0

Editor
January 21, 2020 9:17 am

Epilogue:

The Indian monsoons are fascinating — particularly in their cultural aspects.

How India copes with its billion plus population is a mystery to me. I do know that as a nation they need to add drinking water infrastructure and am curious why they spend tax dollars on their space program rather than more pragmatic programs like water, sewage, cleaning up the rivers, etc. But, hey, it is their country.

Thanks for all of you who have contributed to the conversation here.

and

Thanks for Reading!

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