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Erratic Indian monsoon could be a sign of things to come – University of Reading

Release Date : 20 August 2009

This year's Indian monsoon has seen both drought and flooding and, according to scientists from the Walker Institute at the University of Reading, this kind of erratic behaviour may get worse in the future.

Research by Dr Andy Turner and colleagues, concludes that the monsoon could get more variable – not just the well known increase in year-to-year variations, but also from day to day.

"Our results show that although wet areas over India are likely to get wetter overall, the rain is likely to come in shorter, heavier bursts with longer dry periods in between. The result may be both increased flooding and, paradoxically, increased drought. So we could see more of the sort of conditions we've seen this year in India", says Dr Andy Turner, Walker Institute, University of Reading.

After a lack of rainfall for many parts of India in much of June this year, the southwest monsoon continued in earnest in late July, leading to flooding over parts of the east, including the state of Orissa, which borders the Bay of Bengal.

This year's monsoon officially arrived somewhat early, on 23rd June in the southwest state of Kerala, compared to 1 June normally. However, the northward march of the rains stalled after the first week of June over the southern peninsula, leaving central India, the northern plains and the northeast (and Bangladesh) short. This was felt especially in Mumbai, India's most populated city, where the delayed monsoon onset led to unprecedented water restrictions being put in place in early July.

The slow progress of the monsoon across India this year may relate to El Niño – the warming of waters currently happening in the central Pacific – which has been shown in the past to delay the onset in this way.

The monsoon continued its advancement in late June, moving rapidly and covering the entire country by 3rd July, arriving in northwest India almost two weeks early.


Notes to editors

For further information contact the University of Reading press office on 0118 378 7115 or

The Walker Institute for Climate System Research was established by the University of Reading in 2006. It draws together a number of internationally renowned climate system research groups and centres with expertise across a wide range of core disciplines central to climate system science. Our vision is to be a leader in integrated climate system research in order to deliver better knowledge and understanding of future climate and its impacts for the benefit of society.


Subseasonal extremes of precipitation and active-break cycles of the Indian summer monsoon in a climate-change scenario, A. G. Turner, J. M. Slingo (2009), Walker Institute, University of Reading, UK, Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society 135: 549–567, DOI: 10.1002/qj.401


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