The ripple of an unusual monsoon

India’s 2023  monsoon rains have dropped significantly – the lowest since 2018 – due to El Nino. The season ended with a cumulative rainfall of 94 percent of the long-term average.   While  6 percent of the Long Period Average (LPA) or 94 percent of the cumulative rainfall falls into the normal category, a closer look reveals significant irregularities in the rainfall distribution. First, the monsoon started late, followed by extra rains in July. August became India’s driest and hottest month since systematic records began in 1901. Finally, the positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) and Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) helped counteract the negative effects of El Nino. In September, 13 percent of the extra rain fell, masking the patchy distribution, and pushing total rain toward normal. Compared to the monthly LPA, it was 91 percent in June, 113 percent in July, 64 percent in August, and 113 percent in September 2023.    

The surplus is only about 7%  

 Finally, out of 717 areas, 221 areas received insufficient or heavy rainfall. Of the 36 sub-regions of Meteorology, only 26 (i.e. 73 percent of the country’s area) received normal rain, while 18 percent of the country (i.e. seven sub-regions) received rain. It is noteworthy that only 7 percent of the country’s area received additional rain. According to ground reports, these unevenly distributed rains caused concern for pulses, maize, soybean, cotton, and paddy crops in various proportions and geographical areas. Inadequate rainfall reduces soil moisture, which is crucial for the growth of kharif crops, and the effect is subsequently reflected in the production rate of those crops. Deficient rains, which remained 10-20 percent of the LPA in Bihar, Jharkhand, East Uttar Pradesh, and parts of West Bengal, may affect the production of paddy, pulses, and oilseeds. Despite little rain, the total seed volume from increased cultivation of water-intensive crops such as paddy and sugarcane slightly exceeded the previous year’s figure. Fortunately, excessive rainfall in July, which is the main sowing month for Kharif crops, and with rains in central India, mainly due to the monsoon, resulted in a lack of adequate irrigation infrastructure, causing late sowing.

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