How is climate change affecting Indian agriculture

Climate change causes chaotic monsoons in India

research results

If global warming continues unchecked, the summer monsoon rains in India will become heavier and more unpredictable. This is the central result of an analysis by a German research team that compared more than 30 current climate models from all over the world. The study predicts more extremely wet years in the future - with potentially serious consequences for the well-being, economy and food system of more than a billion people.

"We have found robust evidence of an exponential dependency: for every degree Celsius warming, the monsoons will likely increase by around 5%," says first author Anja Katzenberger from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich (LMU) ). “We were thus able to confirm earlier studies and also show that global warming increases monsoon rainfall in India even more than previously assumed. It dominates the monsoon dynamic in the 21st century. "

Too much rainfall harms rice plants

More precipitation is only partially good for agriculture in India and neighboring countries. As co-author Julia Pongratz from LMU explains: “Crops need water especially in the first growth period, but too much rain in the other growth stages can damage the plants - including the rice, on which a large part of the Indian population feeds. This makes the Indian economy and the food system very sensitive to fluctuating monsoon patterns. "

A look into the past underscores that human behavior is behind the intensification of rainfall. Since the 1950s, man-made influences have begun to overtake the slow natural changes that have taken place over many millennia. Initially, high levels of aerosol blocking the sunlight led to subdued warming and thus to a decrease in precipitation, but since 1980 the warming caused by greenhouse gases has been the decisive driver for stronger and more volatile monsoons.

A threat to the well-being of the Indian subcontinent

"We are seeing more and more that climate change is about unpredictable weather extremes and their serious consequences," comments group leader and co-author Anders Levermann from PIK and Columbia University, New York / USA, on the results of the Earth System Dynamics magazine published study. “Because what is really at stake is the socio-economic well-being of the Indian subcontinent. A more chaotic monsoon season poses a threat to agriculture and the economy in the region and should be a wake-up call for politicians to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. "

Article: Anja Katzenberger, Jacob Schewe, Julia Pongratz, Anders Levermann: Robust increase of Indian monsoon rainfall and its variability under future warming in CMIP-6 models. Earth System Dynamics. DOI: 10.5194 / esd-2020-80.


Scientific contact:
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Original publication:
Anja Katzenberger, Jacob Schewe, Julia Pongratz, Anders Levermann: Robust increase of Indian monsoon rainfall and its variability under future warming in CMIP-6 models. Earth System Dynamics. DOI: 10.5194 / esd-2020-80.