Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Indian monsoons are becoming more extreme

Stephanie Paige Ogburn in Scientific American via ClimateWire: The Indian monsoon, a seasonal event that brings key moisture to an agricultural region where about 20 percent of the world's population resides, is getting more extreme, researchers report. A new study released yesterday in the journal Nature Climate Change found that extreme wet and dry spells within the monsoon period have increased since 1980.

"In the most fundamental sense, we are identifying climate change," said study co-author Noah Diffenbaugh, a Stanford University researcher and fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment. "The question is what is causing that climate change. It could be global warming; it could be some other forcing factors," Diffenbaugh added.

Deepti Singh, the lead author of the study and a doctoral candidate in the Environmental Earth System Science program at Stanford, said changes in the monsoon are important, because farmers there are very dependent on rain-fed agriculture for food production both nationally and for export. "So any changes and any impact on the crops locally can influence local as well as global food security," Singh said.

Although it has been previously documented that overall monsoon rainfall has lessened, few researchers have found changes in extremes. The frequency and intensity of extreme events within the monsoon are important, as periods of intense rainfall can lead to floods, while periods of extreme dryness can lead to crop failures, particularly at certain growth states when crops are particularly vulnerable...

Monsoon rains in Cherrapunjee, shot by PP Yoonus, Wikimedia Commons, public domain

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