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Global warming is making India's monsoon season more erratic

Researchers say global warming is making India's monsoon season more chaotic, which may cause a range of economic and well-being issues in the country. File Photo by Prakash Elamakkora/EPA-EFE
Researchers say global warming is making India's monsoon season more chaotic, which may cause a range of economic and well-being issues in the country. File Photo by Prakash Elamakkora/EPA-EFE

April 14 (UPI) -- India's monsoon season will grow increasingly wet and erratic as a result of global warming, according to a new study published Wednesday in the journal Earth System Dynamics.

Simulations carried out by more than 30 different state-of-the-art climate models showed rising global temperatures will fuel more intense rainfall during most future monsoon seasons.

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"We have found robust evidence for an exponential dependence: For every degree Celsius of warming, monsoon rainfalls will likely increase by about 5 percent," lead author Anja Katzenberger said in a press release.

"Hereby, we were also able to confirm previous studies but find that global warming is increasing monsoon rainfall in India even more than previously thought. It is dominating monsoon dynamics in the 21st century," said Katzenberger, a climate scientist at the Potsdam-Institute for Climate Impact Research and Ludwig-Maximilian University in Germany.

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India is one of the world's biggest agricultural producers, but many of the subcontinent's crops are reliant on the rains brought by the monsoon season.

Often, Indian farmers would appreciate a little more rain, but too much water can harm crops.

"Crops need water especially in the initial growing period, but too much rainfall during other growing states can harm plants -- including rice on which the majority of India's population is depending for sustenance," said study co-author Julia Pongratz.

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"This makes the Indian economy and food system highly sensitive to volatile monsoon patterns," said Pongratz, a researcher at Lugwig-Maximilian University.

According to the new climate simulations, increases in sunlight-blocking aerosols during the first half of the 20th century, warming trends slowed and rainfall totals decreased.

However, since the 1980s, warming trends have reemerged and accelerated. And over the last half-century, the link between greenhouse gas-induced warming and stronger and more erratic Monsoon seasons has intensified.

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The trend could seriously threaten the well-being of India's food systems and growing population.

Though monsoon rainfall totals are expected to increase as the planet warms, the climate models also showed the monsoon season will become more variable.

In other words, the monsoon's precipitation will become less predictable from year to year -- more bad news for Indian farmers, according to the researchers.

"We see more and more that climate change is about unpredictable weather extremes and their serious consequences," said study co-author Anders Levermann.

"Because what is really on the line is the socio-economic well-being of the Indian subcontinent. A more chaotic monsoon season poses a threat to the agriculture and economy in the region and should be a wakeup call for policy makers to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions worldwide," said Levermann, a researcher with Potsdam and Columbia University.

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