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India experiences the driest August ever recorded, with a 33% rain deficit

IMD expects a monsoon revival from September 2 onwards, despite El Nino still being active

heatwave in India

BS Web Team New Delhi

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This month is on track to become India's driest August on record due to irregular weather patterns attributed to El Nino, according to a report by The Times of India (ToI). The month has seen a rainfall deficit exceeding 33 per cent, with over 20 days registering no precipitation. This could result in the June-September monsoon season concluding with an overall rainfall deficit.
As of Tuesday, the total rainfall for August across India stood at 160.3 mm. Typically, the month sees 241 mm of rainfall, marking the current figures as 33 per cent below the expected levels for this time of year.
The previous driest August was in 2005, with 191.2 mm of rain recorded, 25 per cent below expected levels. With the month nearing its end and the monsoon apparently on another hiatus, rainfall seems unlikely to surpass 170-175 mm.
The report also noted that this would be the first time since 1901 that a rainfall deficit has surpassed 30 per cent in August, and only the second time in nearly 105 years.
The most significant monthly rain deficit was recorded in July 2002, at an alarming 50.6 per cent. It's crucial to note that July and August are generally the wettest months in India, playing a vital role in the country's agricultural production.
According to the Standardised Precipitation Index (SPI) of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), about 31 per cent of India's land area has been grappling with varying levels of dry weather conditions between July 27 and August 23. This has had a negative impact on agriculture, crop yields, and soil conditions.
Weather patterns have been inconsistent across India over the past few months. Some regions have received little or no rainfall, while others have been issued orange and red alerts due to the risk of flash floods and landslides.
The monsoon initially arrived late in June before parts of northern India experienced unusually high rainfall in July. The month recorded 315.9 mm of rainfall, 13 per cent above the seasonal average, making it the second-highest July rainfall in the past 18 years.
Despite these heavy downpours, India remains in an overall rain deficit for the current monsoon season.
IMD Chief Mrutyunjay Mohapatra explained that several factors, including El Nino, have negatively impacted this year's monsoon. He said, "The El Nino kicked in, while the Indian Ocean Dipole did not turn positive as expected in August. Another factor, the Madden-Julian Oscillation, was not in a favourable phase throughout the month. Finally, there were only two cyclones over the South China Sea, as opposed to the normal four to five. The remnants of these cyclones often end up in the Bay of Bengal and boost rainfall in India."
Despite the weak monsoon so far, Mohapatra indicated that the IMD expects a revival starting September 2 due to the likely development of a cyclonic circulation in the northern Bay of Bengal, which could evolve into a low-pressure system affecting east, central, and south India.
However, the IMD anticipates El Nino will continue influencing weather patterns. The department had initially predicted the August rainfall deficit to be between 6 and 10 per cent, a forecast that now appears overly optimistic.
To avoid ending the season with an overall deficit, September's rainfall would need to record a modest shortfall of less than eight per cent.

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First Published: Aug 30 2023 | 1:28 PM IST

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