Gearing up for change – Monsoon Trends in India: Analyzing the Impact on Agriculture and Climate Resilience | 20 January 2024 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the study conducted by researchers at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) that examines monsoon trends at the sub-divisional (tehsil) level from 1982-2022.


  • GS1: Important Geophysical Phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location-changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes


  • The India Meteorological Department (IMD) recently celebrated its 150th anniversary, marking its long history of analyzing climate and weather patterns in the country.
  • The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has a long and distinguished history, dating back to its founding in 1875.
  • In its early years, the IMD was primarily focused on understanding and predicting the southwest monsoon, which is essential for agriculture in India. However, the IMD's mandate has since expanded to include the study of all aspects of weather and climate.

India Meteorological Department (IMD):

  • IMD is the National Meteorological Service of the country and the principal government agency in all matters relating to meteorology and allied subjects.
  • It is an agency of the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India.
  • Historical Background:
    • In 1864, two devastating cyclones hit Kolkata and the Andhra coast, causing significant loss of life.
    • The severity of these calamities highlighted the absence of a system to monitor atmospheric parameters, leading to the establishment of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) in 1875.
    • The IMD began its official operations with the appointment of only one person, HF Blanford, an Englishman known as the Imperial Meteorological Reporter.
    • Significant progress in understanding monsoons was made under Gilbert Walker's guidance, who was named head of IMD in 1903.
  • The IMD's main functions include:
    • Collecting and processing meteorological data from across India.
    • Providing weather forecasts and warnings to the public, government agencies, and private sector.
    • Issuing alerts and advisories for extreme weather events, such as cyclones, floods, and droughts.
    • Conducting research on meteorology and climate change.
    • Providing training and education in meteorology.
  • Official Publications:
    • Annual Report: This comprehensive document summarizes the IMD's activities, achievements, and future plans for the year.
    • Mausam Journal: This peer-reviewed scientific journal publishes research articles on weather forecasting, climate change, and other meteorological topics.
    • Other publications: The IMD also releases brochures, booklets, and technical reports on various meteorological subjects.


  • Monsoon Trends Across India: 
    • A recent study by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) has analyzed monsoon trends at the sub-divisional (tehsil) level in India from 1982 to 2022. The study found that monsoon rainfall is increasing in more than half (55%) of India's roughly 4,400 tehsils. However, about 11% of tehsils have seen a decrease in rainfall.
    • The study also found that there is a great deal of variability in monsoon rainfall trends across India. For example, the Indo-Gangetic plains, which are home to more than half of India's agricultural production, have seen a decrease in rainfall in recent years. In contrast, some tehsils in Rajasthan, Gujarat, central Maharashtra, and parts of Tamil Nadu have seen an increase in rainfall.
  • Beyond Averages: Dry Spells, Torrential Downpours, and the Northeast Monsoon
    • The study also found that India's monsoons are becoming more variable, with longer dry spells and more intense rainfall events. This is likely due to a combination of factors, including climate change and natural variability.
    • The northeast monsoon, which occurs in October, November, and December, has also seen changes in recent years. Rainfall from the northeast monsoon has increased by more than 10% in the past decade in some parts of peninsular India.
  • From Revenue Extraction to Climate Resilience: The New Relevance of Regional Monsoon Data
    • The IMD's data on monsoon rainfall is essential for planning and decision-making in India. This data can be used to develop drought-resistant crops, improve water management practices, and prepare for extreme weather events.
    • In the past, the IMD's data was primarily used by the British administration to collect revenue from farmers. However, today the data is used to help India cope with the challenges of climate change.

Way Forward:

  • The study by the CEEW highlights the need for more detailed and accurate monsoon forecasts. The IMD should focus on developing regional and sub-district forecasts that can be used by local communities to prepare for floods and droughts.
  • The government should also invest in research on climate change and its impact on the monsoons. This research will help India develop strategies to adapt to a changing climate.
  • In conclusion, the IMD's data on monsoon rainfall is a valuable resource for India. This data can be used to improve agricultural productivity, manage water resources, and prepare for extreme weather events.

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