As much as 51% of India’s farmed area accounting for 40% of production is rain-fed and 47% of the population is dependent on agriculture for livelihood.

Monsoon to be ‘above normal’ in India: IMD

India may receive “above normal” monsoon rainfall between June and September, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said in its long-range forecast. India received below normal rains in 2023, HT reported, adding that this would mean the overall volume of rainfall across the country to be at 106% of the long period average (LPA), with an error margin of 5%. The prediction will be updated in May. M Ravichandran, secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, attributed the forecast to expected changes in oceanic temperature patterns and the amount of snow cover in the northern hemisphere.

However, latest climate model forecasts indicate that El Nino is likely to weaken to neutral conditions during the early part of the monsoon season (June-July), and La Nina conditions are likely to develop during the second half of the monsoon season (August-September).

The newspaper added that monsoon delivers nearly 70% of India’s rain and is the lifeblood of its economy. As much as 51% of India’s farmed area accounting for 40% of production is rain-fed and 47% of the population is dependent on agriculture for livelihood.

Consistent and moderate amounts of rain—as opposed to heavy or very heavy rainfall days—is crucial for the country’s agriculture and rural sector. 

IMD declares ‘severe heatwave’ at nearly 40 degrees in Mumbai

Mumbai’s maximum temperature burned at 39.7 degrees on Tuesday making it the hottest day in April in a decade according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). 

According to meteorologists, the city is experiencing hot day and night temperatures due to a cyclonic circulation over Central Maharashtra, resulting in the influx of easterly winds, The Indian Express reported adding that attributing the spike to these easterlies, experts have said that the temperature is expected to oscillate between 38 and 39 degrees Celsius until Wednesday at least.

The sudden spike of temperatures this week is a harbinger of what lies in store for the city, with IMD scientists indicating that more heatwaves are likely to sweep the entire state this summer, the newspaper said.

Extreme rain: Dubai experiences a year’s worth of rain over 12 hours, at least 18 die in Oman 

In just half a day, around 4 inches (100 mm) of rain drowned the city of Dubai, according to weather observations at the airport. The city experienced rain worth entire year, according to United Nations data. The showers were so extreme that some motorists fled leaving their vehicles as the floodwater rose and roads turned into rivers, the CNN reported, adding that the tarmac of Dubai International Airport—recently crowned the second-busiest airport in the world—was under water as planes taxied on floodwaters. The flooded airport was shut down for nearly a half hour on Tuesday. The news outlet reported that Dubai—like the rest of the United Arab Emirates—has hot and dry climate. As such, rainfall is infrequent and the infrastructure is not in place to handle extreme events. Extreme events like this will become more frequent due to human-driven climate change. As the atmosphere continues to warm, it’s able to soak up more moisture like a towel and then ring it out in the form of more extreme gushes of flooding rainfall.

Heavy rains in Oman killed at least 18 people, including 9 schoolchildren and their driver, as the vehicle they were in got washed away by floodwaters in Samad A’Shan on Sunday.

Vanishing wells of Marathwada: Farmers report water table dropped to 300 metres in 30 years

Maharashtra’s Marathwada is grappling with severe drought-like conditions following years of scanty rain, DTE reported, adding that lands are slowly turning arid, much to the despair of farmers. According to official data, the major dams in the Aurangabad region have 19.38% water storage left in 2024, compared to 40.79% the same time last year. Medium-sized dams have 17.78% water storage, while small dams have 14.52% in 2024 compared to 54.74% and 46.57%, respectively, the outlet said.

Groundwater sources are running dry, as water levels have depleted by 245 metres in just 30 years. Water-intensive crops like sugarcane and sweet lime has only exacerbated the problem. 

Experts told DTE the drought is clearly a human-made disaster, due to the mismanagement of water.  After 10 years, the ₹9,630 crore Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan (JSA) scheme for drought-proofing Maharashtra can provide water to just 487 people for a year, experts said.

The state government’s 630,000 water conservation interventions across 22,586 villages under the JSA cost the public exchequer ₹9,630 crore, according to the 2020 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).

India’s built-up area grew by 2.5 million hectares in 17 years

India’s built-up area steadily increased between 2005-06 to 2022-23, expanding by almost 2.5 million hectares, mostly by diversion of agricultural land, a new analysis showed. 

The built-up land showed a modest increase with an overall growth of around 31% during the period from 2005-06 and 2022-23, according to data released by the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), ISRO. During this period, around 35% of built-up area has been added (average increase of around 2.4% annually from land cover, which include “wasteland” and agricultural land cover). State defines wasteland as “degraded and unproductive land” that contributed significantly (12.3%) to built-up area expansion.

India lost over 1,500 sq km of land to ‘catastrophic’ soil erosion

A huge 30% of India’s landmass is experiencing “minor” soil erosion, while a critical 3% faces “catastrophic” topsoil loss, according to a new research. 

The study, Geospatial modeling and mapping of soil erosion in India, for the first time, classified soil erosion for the whole country. Erosion reduces fertility of topsoil, full of nutrients and moisture essential for plant growth. It results in decreased crop yields. Brahmaputra Valley in Assam was the biggest hotspot for soil erosion in the country the study said. Data accessed and quantified by DTE shows the northeastern state Assam lost close to 300 sqkm or 31% of its surface soil to “catastrophic” erosion. 

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, it could take up to 1,000 years to produce 2 to 3 centimetres of top or surface soil, which has a depth of 6 cm. 

Methane, nitrous oxide, CO2, three most important heat-trapping gasses levels at record high

In 2023, levels of the three most important heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere reached new record highs, the Guardian reports. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the global concentration of CO2 rose to an average of 419 parts per million (ppm) in 2023, while methane rose to an average of 1,922 parts per billion (ppb) and nitrous oxide climbed slightly to 336ppb, the outlet says. The increases “do not quite match the record jumps seen in recent years…but still represent a major change in the composition of the atmosphere even from just a decade ago”, it adds. The article quotes Vanda Grubišić, director of NOAA’s global monitoring laboratory, as saying: “As these numbers show, we still have a lot of work to do to make meaningful progress in reducing the amount of greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere.”

Geoengineering causes higher risk of wildfires, permafrost thawing over the Arctic regions

Geoengineering methods that change the planet’s radiative forcing—aiming to reduce the amount of energy that reaches the surface of the Earth—could increase the incidence of fires in the Arctic, when combined with very high greenhouse gas emissions, a study published in Nature said. The authors use an Earth system model to investigate three geoengineering methods—stratospheric aerosol injection, marine cloud brightening and cirrus cloud thinning. They find that these methods, when combined with the high emissions RCP8.5 scenario, are less effective at cooling the Arctic than the rest of the world, adding that they “worsen extreme conditions” in the Arctic, when compared to the middle-of-the-road RCP4.5 emissions scenario.

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