The Southwest Monsoon — More Erratic?

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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 am 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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via Watts Up With That?

October 10, 2022