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India's fizzling monsoon could prolong heatwave in north: Report

India's monsoon rains have hit a snag after reaching western regions ahead of schedule, potentially delaying their spread to northern and central states, according to senior weather officials. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) reported that the monsoon has slowed after reaching Maharashtra.

Edited By: Nitin Kumar @Niitz1 New Delhi Published on: June 12, 2024 14:43 IST
Image Source : REUTERS/FILE PHOTO A man walks on the road with a net as people fish at the shrimp and crab farms that are flooded due to heavy rain.

India's monsoon rains have stalled after reaching western regions ahead of schedule, potentially delaying their arrival in northern and central states and extending the ongoing heatwave in the grain-growing plains, according to two senior weather officials.

Monsoon's slowed progress

The monsoon, which is crucial for spurring economic growth in Asia's third-largest economy, typically begins in the south around June 1 and spreads nationwide by July 8, facilitating the planting of crops such as rice, cotton, soybeans, and sugarcane. However, an official from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) stated that the monsoon has slowed after reaching Maharashtra and may take a week to regain momentum. The rains had arrived nearly two days ahead of schedule in the western state, home to Mumbai, but progress in central and northern states will be delayed by a few days.

Economic impact

The monsoon is vital for India's nearly $3.5-trillion economy, providing 70% of the rain needed to water farms and refill reservoirs and aquifers. With nearly half the farmland in India, the world's second-biggest producer of rice, wheat, and sugar, dependent on annual rains, the delay could have significant economic repercussions.

Heatwave concerns

IMD data showed that maximum temperatures in India's northern states range between 42 degrees Celsius and 46 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit to 115 degrees Fahrenheit), which is 3 to 5 degrees Celsius (5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal. Northern and eastern states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, and Odisha are expected to face heatwave conditions for the next two weeks. Another weather official indicated that weather models do not predict any early respite from the heatwave, and the delay in the monsoon's progress will further increase temperatures in the northern plains.

Climate change effects

India is among several parts of Asia experiencing an unusually hot summer, a trend exacerbated by human-driven climate change. This month, New Delhi recorded its highest-ever temperature of 49.9 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in some areas while grappling with water shortages in heat hovering around 44 degrees Celsius (112 degrees Fahrenheit).

Rainfall predictions

Rainfall in central, northern, and some western states is expected to be below normal in the next two weeks. Since the season began on June 1, India has received 1% less rainfall than normal, according to the IMD. Both officials, who requested anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media, highlighted the potential challenges ahead due to the delayed monsoon.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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