The Southwest Monsoon — More Erratic?

Guest Essay by Kip Hansen — 10 October 2022

The Monsoon.  Life Giving.  Life Taking. Bringing both joy and sorrow to all of India.  As always has.  It is believed by some that India’s history has been determined by the monsoon and its variability over time.  Prayers are said to the goddess Mariamman to bring a favorable monsoon. 

India’s monsoon is the most important meteorological event in India every year — a good monsoon means good crops and prosperity for millions of farmers and is a such major factor in India’s economic well-being that it is predicted, tracked and reported by India’s central bank.

But while India’s monsoon can be fairly accurately predicted, it is not always the same year-to-year, region-to-region or place-to-place.

Some years it rains too much in one place and too little in another.  Some years are drought years and some are flood years.  Some years are both.

Henry Fountain, a Times climate reporter, and Saumya Khandelwal claim in a recent NY Times feature piece that:

“The Monsoon Is Becoming More Extreme — South Asia’s monsoon is inextricably linked, culturally and economically, to much of Asia. Climate change is making it increasingly violent and erratic.”

This is a special “interactive” feature, meaning that interesting effects have been created by a special graphics team at the NY Times.  Check it out at the link given above.  Unfortunately, like many before it, it is, at its most basic, “pretty pictures used as propaganda”.

Let’s check just the claims in the sub-title:  Climate change is making the southwest monsoon 1)  Increasingly violent  and 2) erratic.   Henry Fountain doubles down on this claim with this: “Now, however, across South Asia, climate change is making the monsoon more erratic, less dependable and even dangerous, with more violent rainfall as well as worsening dry spells.”

Let’s see if these claims are true:

Increasingly Violent, More Violent Rainfall:

From this year’s roundup of the 2022 monsoon season from the India Meteorological Department (IMD), we have this five-year summary chart:

The chart shows numbers of “heavy rainfall events” across the bottom – both “just heavy” (labeled >115.6 and <204.5) and “extremely heavy” (labeled >204.5) for each year.  We see that over the last five years, extremely heavy rainfall events have declined 321, 554, 341, 273, and 296, only 2019 is unusually greater.  The same is true of just heavy rainfall events.  But 2020, 2021, 2022 are quite normal, with fewer in these years.  So, at least the last five years have not seen “more violent rainfall”.

More erratic, less dependable:

The monsoon means rainfall in monsoon season, so to be “more erratic, less dependable” we should see rainfall amounts that fall far below, or far above, seasonal normal:

This is a one hundred and twenty-one year record, meticulously kept by the governments of India, precisely because the monsoon rains means prosperity or disaster for the Indian people year to year.  Years outside of the green-shaded area  — designated by the IMD as Normal +/- 10%  — are years of too much rain and not enough rain.  Years outside the yellow-shaded areas are bad flood years and bad drought years.  There are always some years in the present decades that fall outside of normal.

We see that those outside-of-normal years are rare in the last 30 years – 1962-1992 saw far more outside of the normal (green) band than 1992-2022.  Rather than more erratic and less dependable, the latest climatic period (30 years) has been far more dependable and less erratic than the previous two 30-year periods.

That said, the monsoon that India gets each year is the monsoon that India gets.  Some years are better than others.  Some years are more evenly spread geographically, some years are “spottier’ with too much rain here and too little there.  That is what we call weather and is as always was. 

Bottom Line:

It is not true that “The Monsoon Is Becoming More Extreme — Climate change is making it increasingly violent and erratic.”

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Author’s Comment:

I have written about the monsoon previously in 2019 Indian Monsoon – Blessing or Curse?  Nothing has changed since then, except that the main stream media is more and more compliant with the demand that journalists exaggerate and bias any and all news that might be related to weather and climate – the demand that all stories claim that there is a Climate Crisis evident in every single story.

There will be others who are more knowledgeable than I writing about this year’s monsoon – it is a hot topic – and a wrap up of the monsoon season story is quite popular.

Thanks for reading.

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October 10, 2022 10:10 am

Seem worshiping Mariamman is unnecessary.

Reply to  Scissor
October 10, 2022 10:23 am

At least they aren’t destroying their economy worshipping the Green New Deal gods.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
October 10, 2022 10:53 am

Said another way, it doesn’t seem that India lacks rain or fertility.

Reply to  Scissor
October 10, 2022 10:13 pm

Sharp Scissor, I got it

Reply to  Scissor
October 10, 2022 10:46 am

In central India where I grew up, the major festivals/prayers were to Kali.

” Mahakali, Bhadrakali,and Kalika (Sanskrit: कालिका), is a Hindu goddess who is considered to be the goddess of ultimate power, time, destruction and change in Shaktism. In this tradition, she is considered as a ferocious form of goddess Mahadevi, the supreme of all powers, or the ultimate reality.”

Never heard of Mariamman.

Reply to  Fran
October 10, 2022 10:58 am

Mariamman must be a southern goddess. I don’t know. The only one I recall is Shiva Nataraja.

Reply to  Scissor
October 10, 2022 3:15 pm

That’s exactly what the Wiki article says in the first paragraph. Rural areas of South India. (Quite likely an accretion from before Hinduism spread into the region.)

Reply to  writing observer
October 11, 2022 10:38 am

There was – I assume still is – a time on Singapore, Sri Mariamman.
It was (is) very striking, much statuary!


Reply to  Fran
October 10, 2022 10:52 pm

Try Tamil Nadu, many Mariamman temples.
This article is spot on: “the Indian monsoon” was and still is irregular, full stop. Here in the south east Monsoon = an average of 6 low pressure areas swinging in between October and end December. the more or less these repeatedly hit one spot, the wetter / dryer that year. It is quit a micro regional affair.

Reply to  Scissor
October 10, 2022 2:45 pm

Do you have a span of years when they did not do so to compare?

Andy Espersen
Reply to  Scissor
October 10, 2022 2:53 pm

Scissor >> – So you think that for little serious-minded human beings, completely depending on good weather for their very livelihood, it is “unnecessary”, perhaps even ridiculous, to pray for a good monsoon??

You really are quite ignorant about the meaning of religion.

Rud Istvan
October 10, 2022 10:20 am

There you go again, using readily available facts that NYT ignores/misrepresents.

October 10, 2022 10:33 am

AP – Drive for climate compensation grows after Pakistan’s floods

John Shotsky
October 10, 2022 12:10 pm

India’s monsoons can easily be tied to the El Nino/La Nina cycles. This can be found in the book Floods, Famines and Emperors, El Nino and the fate of civilizations, by Brian Fagan. It covers about 20K years, and shows how ENSO has affected societal groups over those years. It also shows what we can expect over the next few centuries.

October 10, 2022 12:20 pm

Claims of “worse” or “more often” are nearly NEVER found to be correct when a graph going back to 1900 from a reputable source is included.
One would think that at random, made up by monkeys, such claims would be found to be 50% correct….but instead they are 95% incorrect. This is indicative of a propagandized media. And indeed it is rather easy to find media groups like planning news headlines for public presentation and many outlets with a “donate” button near their global-destruction-of-the-day article, of course written by a repeat offending hack.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  DMacKenzie
October 10, 2022 12:29 pm

You make a very good point. Hadn’t thought about it that way before. Not random goofs. Lopsided error distribution is proof of misleading intent.

Reply to  DMacKenzie
October 10, 2022 10:16 pm

but instead they are 95% incorrect. 

97% incorrect

October 10, 2022 2:03 pm

It is not true that “The Monsoon Is Becoming More Extreme — Climate change is making it increasingly violent and erratic.”

Attached shows how the temperature in the Arabian Sea has changed through the satellite era. The generally rising trend is the result of gradual increasing solar intensity.

The ocean surface temperature cannot be sustained above 30C so that is the limit. The surface needs to reach 28C for persistent monsoon conditions.

The peaks have risen steadily over the 4 decades but a slight downswing in the last five years tied to the solar cycle at present. The 11 year solar beat is evident in the peaks.

A failure of the monsoon will become increasingly rare. The monsoon conditions will occur a little earlier because the autumn solar intensity is increasing.

One change that could alter the landfall of monsoon is removal of moisture holding biomass. For example, covering vast areas of the land with solar panels could prevent the powerful convective columns forming over land that draw mid level moisture from the oceans. Land water begets precipitation in tropical conditions.

Screen Shot 2022-10-11 at 7.49.38 am.png
October 10, 2022 3:40 pm

The sub-continent has not experienced a single hurricane/typhoon/cyclone this season.
First time I can recall this being the case.

October 10, 2022 8:00 pm

I’d rather trust Mariamman than the IPCC. She looks pretty competent, and I suspect she has a no-nonsense attitude.

John MacDonald
October 10, 2022 8:47 pm

Two weeks ago, a CBS or ABC anchor stood in the rain and wind, reporting on hurricane Ian. Suddenly she broke into a speech about how climate change was creating stronger storms. Totally inappropriate and incongruous.
Ever since I first learned about the Columbia Journalism Review project to inject climate into everything, I’ve seen this increase in CC references in the oddest places.
So, thanks for the link to CCNOW in your closing. Just the opening page is scary and proof of the propaganda project’s reach and scope.
Perhaps it is time for a full article on this attempt to corrupt the knowledge of, as they say, 2 billion people.

October 11, 2022 7:59 am

1) Increasingly violent and 2) erratic”

Weather is chaotic atmospheric event!
Merriam-Webster even uses chaotic in a sentence describing weather as an example.

having outcomes that can vary widely due to extremely small changes in initial conditions”

Meanwhile the definition for erratic:

characterized by lack of consistency, regularity, or uniformity”

Seems to me “erratic” is a huge improvement to “chaotic”.

Anyway, I seriously doubt that any modern India “monsoon” can have rain/drought events worse than those history has recorded.

This is a special “interactive” feature, meaning that interesting effects have been created by a special graphics team at the NY Times.”

New York Times apparently expended a lot of cash cobbling up this falsehood. May their efforts to deceive citizens be rewarded with an “extreme” event, e.g., ‘plummeting readership’.

Brin Jenkins
October 11, 2022 9:36 am

Nothing to do with China’s rain making machines on the Tibetan plains I suppose?

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