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Climate of India

India’s location in the tropics and having a peninsula in the south has led to the dominant climate of the land to be tropical monsoon climate. There are variations of temperature and rainfall conditions across the whole country, and seasonal variations are markedly noted over the landmass.

Factors Affecting the Climate of India

  1. The Himalayan mountain range—They act as an effective climatic barrier. It protects India from the cold arctic winds blowing over Siberia during the winter season. It acts as a barrier to the moisture-laden winds and brings abundant rainfall in India.
  2. Water bodies surrounding India—The Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean provides the moisture to the monsoon winds in summer. The coastal areas of India experience a moderate climate, whereas places like Nagpur and Delhi, located in the interior of the country very far away from the sea, experience continental climate (very hot in summer, very cold in winter).
  3. Impact of the prevailing winds—Monsoon, the predominant wind circulation over India, causes abundant rainfall during the summer season.
  4. Latitudinal extent—The southern peninsula of India lies in the tropical region close to the equator, closer to the water bodies. Areas north of the Tropic of Cancer lie in the temperate belt, away from the equator, and also far away from the water bodies. This causes distinctly different climatic conditions in different parts of India.
  5. Altitude of the place—Areas lying on the plains experience a warmer climate than areas in high altitudes like mountains and plateau. The hilly areas like Srinagar, Simla, Nainital, Ooty and Kodaikanal are much cooler. Temperature decreases with increasing altitude at the rate of 6°C for every 1000 m of ascent.
  6. Upper air circulation—The upper air Jet streams blow at an altitude of 10 to 14 km. The westerly jet stream is responsible for causing western disturbances in northern India. The easterly jet streams are responsible for causing tropical cyclones over India and Bangladesh.
  7. Presence of relief features—This affects the temperature, air pressure, wind speed and wind direction, amount and distribution of rainfall. The western side of the Western Ghats and the southern face of the Meghalaya plateau receive copious rainfall as they act as orographic barriers on the path of the southwest monsoon winds. The Aravalli range lies parallel to the path of the oncoming southwest monsoon winds from the Arabian Sea. The moisture-laden winds blow over the region without causing any rainfall. The Thar region of Rajasthan remains a desert.

Characteristic of Indian Climate

  1. Indian climate is characterised by wet summer and dry winter.
  2. There is a complete reversal of the wind system with the change of seasons. In winter the wind system over the landmass predominantly blows from the northeast, whereas in summer there is a complete reversal of the wind direction and the predominant wind blows from the sea to the land from the southwest.
  3. A high pressure condition prevails over the north Indian landmass during the cold winter season. During the summer season, the landmass becomes hot and an intense low pressure area develops over the north-western part of India. This alternate condition of high and low pressure affects the direction of wind movement over the sub-continent.
  4. The monsoon rainfall is characterised by seasonal and regional variations in amount and distribution. The dates of arrival and departure of the monsoon winds are irregular. Sometimes heavy downpours lead to floods in some areas, whereas in certain areas drought occurs due to long dry spells.
  5. The tropical monsoon climate over India is characterised by continuous change in the weather conditions. Four main seasons are observed, although in some parts of the country there might be six seasons. The four seasons are
    1. Winter—from December to February
    2. Summer—from March to May
    3. Southwest monsoon season—June to September
    4. Retreating monsoon season—October and November
      Figure 2.1 describes the seasonal characteristics.
  6. Although rainfall over the Indian landmass usually occurs in the summer, winter rainfall takes place in two distinct regions—(a) Over northern India, rainfall occurs due to a series of cyclones coming from the Mediterranean region, called western disturbances, and (b) rain falls in the Coromandel Coast (in Tamil Nadu) from the retreating monsoon winds.
  7. The southwest monsoon winds control Indian agriculture, which is the main occupation of the people. The success or failure of the monsoons directly affects the agricultural production. Natural calamities like floods and droughts are related to the monsoon rains.

Distribution of Rainfall

The rainfall in India is unevenly distributed, seasonal in nature (contributed mostly by the southwest monsoons), uncertain and has seasonal and regional variations.

On the basis of quantity, Indian can be divided into the following five rainfall regions:

  1. Very low rainfall region (less than 30 cm per year)
  • Thar desert
  • Western parts of Kutch peninsula
  • Northern Kashmir (Ladakh) and Karakoram ranges
  1. Low rainfall region (between 30 cm and 60 cm per year)
  • Eastern parts of Western Ghats in Maharashtra and Karnataka
  • Western Gujarat
  • Central Rajasthan
  • Punjab and Haryana
  1. Moderate rainfall region (between 60 cm and 100 cm per year)
  • Central and western Uttar Pradesh
  • South-eastern Rajasthan
  • Eastern Gujarat
  • Parts of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh
  1. Heavy rainfall region (between 100 cm and 200 cm per year)
  • Parts of the western coast and eastern coastal belt
  • Foothills of the Himalayas
  • Parts of north-eastern India
  1. Very heavy rainfall region (over 200 cm of rainfall in a year)
  • Western part of the Western Ghats
  • Foothills of the Himalayas in upper Assam, northern parts of West Bengal
  • Shillong plateau area of the Meghalaya plateau. Mawsynram in the Meghalaya plateau is the wettest place in India.
  • Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Refer to Figure 2.2 for the distribution of average annual rainfall in India.

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