Written by Manya Pandey, a first-year undergraduate student.
Understanding what monsoon is
Simply put, monsoons are seasonal changes in the direction of winds in a particular area that cause precipitation.
The word monsoon originates from the Arabic word mawsim, which means “season”.
Monsoon winds are formed when the air over land gets heated and rises – this causes the winds to blow from the ocean towards land.
How do monsoon winds form?
Here’s what happens
The sun’s rays heat up the land. The oceans do not heat as fast as the land does – this is because water bodies need more energy to heat up.
As a result, the air on the land becomes hotter than the air above the oceans. The cold winds blow from the water to the hotter areas on land, thus bringing moisture from the oceans to land areas. This is what causes the monsoons (put simply)
India’s special geographical location
Did you ever wonder how amazing it is that India experiences all six seasons?
India is surrounded by three oceans on the southern peninsula – namely the Arabian ocean, the Bay of Bengal, and the Indian Ocean.
The great Himalayan mountains stand tall in the northern part of the nation. The southern seas create trade winds that cause monsoons in the Northwest and central regions of India.
The Arabian sea also sends monsoon winds that pour down in eastern, central, and western parts of the nation whereas the Himalayas in the northern frontier provide us protection and winter rains.
It’s often said that even though India lies halfway in the tropics, the Himalayas are what makes it a tropical country. Their staggering height of over 8 thousand kilometres blocks the bitterly cold winds coming from central Asia and also causes winter monsoons. Without the Himalayan mountain, India would have faced a much drier and harsher winter.
But did you know the nation receives two kinds of monsoons?
India receives two kinds of monsoons – The summer monsoon and the winter monsoon.
While the summer monsoons are caused by differences in land temperature to that of the surrounding three oceans, the winter monsoons are a result of western disturbances.
Did you know winter rains are essential for the growth of wheat?
Let’s unravel them a little more.
The summer monsoons cause much-needed rains in the Indian subcontinent and the surrounding countries. It usually happens between April and September. After the winter ends in December, the warm, moist air from the Indian Ocean begins to blow toward the nation and other countries including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Myanmar and causes the summer monsoon.
How summer rains help in the growth of crops.
Crops that grow in summer are called Kharif crops or monsoon crops in India. These include rice, tea, maize, cotton, and more. Rice, especially, is a staple grain in India and requires large amounts of water to grow. The irrigation systems in most areas are only sufficient till the monsoon arrives. Before we go on to discuss the winter monsoon, did you know, that the state of Chhattisgarh is called the rice bowl of India? (as is Andhra Pradesh)
The winter monsoon in India lasts from October to April but does not originate from any of the surrounding oceans, instead, it comes riding the westerlies or the west to east blowing winds.
These westerlies are heavy with the moisture from the mediterranean sea and are the origins of western cyclonic disturbances which are the main causes of winter rains in southern and western India.
Winter monsoons are less powerful than their summer equivalent because the great Himalayas block the passage of westerly jets from over-irrigating the crops and worsening the Indian winters but these rains are very important for the growth of winter crops in India.
How are they important for the growth of crops?
Wheat, one of the most important crops of India, depends on winter rains. Other coarse cereals including ragi and millets along with oilseeds like soybean, groundnut, sunflower, and some pulses are also winter crops. Such crops are known as Rabi crops. These are sown in the months of October and November and are harvested around February to April.
The summer monsoons have been called India’s true finance minister.
Former President of India, Pranab Mukherjee once remarked that monsoon season was India’s true finance minister. This statement shows how important monsoons are for the country.
A lot of sectors, especially agriculture, are heavily dependent on monsoons because a lot of regions do not have large irrigation systems in place.
Monsoon rains in India provide more than 70 percent of India’s total annual rainfall. And – some 54 percent of India’s farmlands get water because of these rains. This is why a good monsoon is super important for India’s economy and, especially, for the income of the farmers.
When the monsoons are poor, it has a ripple effect on the economy – here’s how:
Poor monsoons lead to lower agricultural productivity – this leads to food inflation – which then leads to lower consumer spending (when things become expensive, people spend less, and when people spend less, then it affects the manufacturing sector, which, in turn, causes job losses..
Did you know that more than half of all motorbike sales and a quarter of all car sales in India take place in rural India? So a bad monsoon directly impacts these sales..(this is one small example of its impact) country?
Another example: good monsoons are also what makes India the number one milk producer in the world by keeping the cows well fed and healthy.
A weaker summer monsoon on the other hand may lead to power shortages in the country because a great deal of the nation’s energy is produced by using water in hydroelectric power plants. This water is replenished in rivers by the monsoon rains.
Therefore late or weak monsoons have a direct effect on the country’s economy that’s probably why summer monsoons have been called India’s true finance minister.
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