File photo

(Yogesh Kumar/TOI, BCCL, Delhi)

Friday, September 2: Overall, August was a good month for India as far as monsoon rainfall is concerned, with the country collectively recording 3.4% more precipitation than its long-term average for the month.

Persistent showers in central and southern states primarily contributed to this excess figure, but they also managed to mask the rainfall deficit in Northwest India — particularly in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

Record-breaking rainfall deficits

Through August 2022, Delhi recorded just 41.6 mm of rainfall, which is the lowest the capital has received in at least 14 years! For Uttar Pradesh, the August precipitation amounted to 139.7 mm, about 37% lower than its monthly average of 219 mm. This was also the sixth driest August UP has witnessed since recordkeeping began in 1901.

When considering the seasonal figures (so far), the rainfall shortage becomes even more prominent. Between June 1 and August 31, both Delhi (302.9 mm) and Uttar Pradesh (332.6 mm) suffered rain deficits worth 31% and 44%, respectively. For the latter, this has been the driest June-to-August period in 122 years!

These three-month figures are also in contrast with the picture for the rest of the country. India collectively registered 743.8 mm rains from June to August this year, surpassing its average of 700.7 mm by 6%.

Underlying reasons and immediate impacts

These drier-than-normal conditions in August were largely down to the unfavourable southwardly positions taken up by the monsoon trough, along with the absence of synoptic systems like low-pressure areas and western disturbances along the foothills of the Himalayas.

Owing to this fact, both Delhi and Uttar Pradesh failed to experience any major monsoon rain spells throughout the month. Instead of overcast skies and intermittent rains pouring for two-three days at a stretch, their fortunes were restricted to witnessing scattered, short-duration showers.

While the long-term impacts of these conditions remain to be seen, some immediate effects of this drier-than-usual August and monsoon as a whole have already become apparent.

The most notable impact has been on the regional agriculture. The total sown area for Kharif crops (whose sowing window closed in mid-August) has undergone a sharp drop, with Uttar Pradesh reporting 2.78 lakh hectares of shortfall till August 18.

Moreover, the uneven distribution of rain and the subsequent spike in temperatures and humidity has also given rise to pest attacks and plant diseases, which will ultimately affect the quality and nutritional value of the produce.

Predictions (and hopes) for September

September brings with it the commencement of the monsoon’s withdrawal from the extreme northwestern parts of the country. As per the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the monsoon could start its retreating process as early as the opening week of this month!

Uttar Pradesh, however, has begun the month on a wet note. And as per the IMD’s latest update, isolated to scattered rains are expected across the state from September 2-4, followed by fairly widespread to widespread showers on September 5-6.

Meanwhile, meteorologists remain hopeful of sufficient rainfall over the northwestern plains through September. While these showers are unlikely to cover the entire rainfall deficit, they could end up narrowing the gap between actual and normal rains in the region by the end of the monsoon season.

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