Depending on which part of South Asia you currently live in, you may be experiencing either one of two things: a severe drought that has decreased agricultural productivity by as much as 50% or the type of torrential rains that resulted in the flooding of nearly two-thirds of Pakistan, as well as the deaths of more than 1,500 people.
Global warming, mostly from the continued use of fossil fuels and a subsequent increase in emissions have contributed to changes in monsoon patterns which are being felt throughout much of the greater Asian continent. With these changes comes a sense of dread from greater uncertainty as to whether a particular season will be mild or go absolutely wild in the way it has over the past few years.
How Exactly Has Climate Change Affected Monsoon Patterns?
Most of Asia’s economies are still centered on agriculture, and the monsoon is a key determinant as to how the economy may perform in any given year. Good monsoons bring bountiful harvests, while bad ones – and harsh ones – bring famine and hardship, especially to underdeveloped rural communities.
The erratic patterns of recent monsoons can be chalked up to some basic science. Air holds more moisture when it’s warm, so moisture accumulates within the atmosphere. If it stays up there for a long while, dry spells and drought conditions occur. However, if and when it finally does rain, affected areas can be hit by a month’s worth of rainfall within just a couple of hours, leading to serious destruction of life and property.
As the world gets warmer, scientists believe that the variability of monsoon strength could change every year – and it will become increasingly difficult to predict its patterns. Indeed, as Anders Levermann of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research puts it, when monsoons start strong, it could become even stronger.
Erratic monsoon patterns may become more common place in the coming years, and the implication this has on the Asian economy is particularly dire.
India, in particular, looks to the future with apprehension. Failed monsoons, seasons wherein the total amount of rainfall is 20 to 30% lower than average, have led to famines, with the worst one happening in 1899 and resulted in the death of nine million people in the country’s center.
While foreign aid throughout much of the 20th century has helped India feed its people through numerous failed monsoons, the nation dreads what the future may hold for its people and economy.