Early Signs of Drought? Deficient Rainfall in June and July Doesn't Augur Well for India


New Delhi: India receives 80 per cent of its rainfall during the southwest monsoons between June and September. Hence, these months are crucial indicators of whether or not the country will experience droughts in the coming months.

As of today, there are signs of drought. According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), between June 1 and July 10, the overall rainfall in the country was deficient by 14 per cent.

The trends in peninsular and eastern India are further alarming. While the southern peninsular region is experiencing a rainfall deficiency of 28%, eastern and north-eastern India has a deficiency of 22%.

All of this points to an imminent drought-like condition across the country unless the monsoon strengthens and even out in distribution, because studies conducted in the past have squarely stated that weak monsoons in June and July mean that the country will experience droughts.

In 2013, scientists at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, had analysed IMD rainfall data for the months of June and July and found that if July experienced deficient rainfall, the chances of overall deficiency shot up to more than 90 per cent.

Two of the country’s worst droughts — in 1972 and 1987 — occurred when the rainfall in July was deficient by 26 and 30 per cent, respectively, and overall the monsoons were deficient by 18 and 25 per cent. The study found that chances of overall deficiency were at 77 per cent with deficient monsoons in June.

According to data from Drought Early Warning System (DEWS), a real-time drought monitoring platform, around 6.6 per cent of the country experienced ‘exceptional dry’ conditions in the first week of July and 4.54 per cent of the country experienced ‘extreme dry’ conditions during the same period — ‘exceptional dry’ being the highest indicator of drought-like conditions and ‘extreme dry’ being the second most severe.


The current nation-wide situation. (Source: DEWS)

For the week between July 11 and 17, IMD has predicted rainfall over isolated places like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and a continuing of the current rainfall over West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam and Meghalaya. For the week after, the Met department says that there are possibilities of “above normal” rainfall over Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka.

What we can do now is hope that the IMD prediction for the next week is correct and that the current monsoons pick up in strength and distribution.