Monsoons occur every year in many countries around the world, so why is it that we almost always hear the Indian or South Asian monsoon mentioned and the others omitted? It is true, that the Indian monsoon is the largest of the phenomena, but that is no reason to nullify the others. What is, is what the monsoon means to the people who live in affected regions.
In India, people’s lives are balanced on a knife-edge. More than 40% of the total population (which was more than one billion and a hundred and fifty million people by the 2009 census) falls below the international poverty line of earning 1.25 US$ per day. That is about one-third of the world’s poor population. Many people rely on agriculture to survive, but the conditions are harsh. Water shortages are constant, and their most widespread staple is rice, which needs constant irrigation to burgeon, and withers quickly if water supply is scant.
Figure 1: The difference between a rice paddy in dry season (winter, left) and in the monsoon season (summer, right)
That means that the Indians welcome the monsoon, because it is an ample source of clean, fresh water that provides more than 80% of their freshwater supplies. At the same time, however, the Indians fear what the monsoon will bring, for it is a dangerous phenomenon. Monsoons are known for the extreme amounts of precipitation produced over a very short time, and more often than not result in floods. Imagine all the poor people living in sub-par conditions with no sewerage and in badly constructed housing that rely on nearby rivers for water supplies. Once the potent torrential rains start, the rivers overflow, and the inadequate infrastructure leads to exacerbation and extirpat...
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... to global warming, the correlation between an El Niño event and reduced monsoonal rainfall has become defunct.
Ramage, CS (1971) Monsoon Meteorology. Academic Press, New York.
Mooley DA, Shukla J (1987) Variability and Forecasting of the Summer Monsoon Rainfall over India. In Monsoon Meteorology (Eds. CP Chang, TN Krishnamurti), Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Kumar KK, Rajagopalan B, Cane MA. On the Weakening Relationship Between the Indian Monsoon and ENSO. Science 1999, Vol. 284.
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