Indian monsoons may fail more often due to climate change: study

Monsoon rains

The Indian monsoon is likely to fail more often in the next 200 years threatening food supplies, unless governments agree how to limit climate change, a study showed on Tuesday.

The monsoon rains could collapse about every fifth year between 2150 and 2200 with continued global warming, blamed mainly on human burning of fossil fuels, and related shifts in tropical air flows, it said.

Monsoon failure becomes much more frequent as temperatures rise, Anders Levermann, a professor of dynamics of the climate system and one of the authors at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told Reuters.

India's monsoon, which lasts from June to September, is vital for India's 1.2 billion people to grow crops such as rice, wheat and corn. India last faced a severe widespread drought in 2009 and had to import sugar, pushing global prices to 30-year highs.

The researchers defined monsoon failure as a fall in rainfall of between 40 and 70 percent below normal levels. Such a drastic decline has not happened any year in records dating back to 1870 by the India Meteorological Department, they said.

CATASTROPHE

In the past century the Indian monsoon has been very stable. It is already a catastrophe with 10 percent less rain than the average, Levermann said.

The study, in the journal Environmental Research Letters, projected a temperature rise of 4.6 degrees C (8.3 F) over pre-industrial times by 2200. U.N. scenarios indicate a gain of between 1.1 and 6.4 degrees C (2.9-11.5F) by 2100.

Assuming a 4.6 degree C rise by 2200, about 10 monsoons would fail in the 50 years to 2200 with daily rainfall of only about 3 mm (0.11 inch), about half of the normal 6 to 7 mm. (0.24 to 0.28 inch), the study indicated.

Almost 200 nations have promised to limit global warming to below 2.0 degrees C (3.6 F) above pre-industrial times to avoid dangerous changes such as more droughts, floods and rising sea levels.

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