Extreme Weather In India Is Not Getting Worse

By Paul Homewood



At COP27, developing nations are demanding climate reparations, to pay for the so-called loss and damage caused by global warming.

But is there any evidence of this damage?


Let’s take a close look at India, which is obviously populous, is highly vulnerable to extreme weather and has a long record of high quality meteorological data thanks to the Indian Meteorological Department, which was formed in 1875.

Naturally, as far as weather is concerned, the prime concern in India is the monsoon. The chart below highlights the years of flood and drought, when rainfall is 10% above or below average:

FLOOD YEARS: During the period 1871-2015, there were 19 major flood years, defined as years with AISMR in excess of one standard deviation above the mean (i.e., anomaly exceeding +10%; blue bars above):

1874, 1878, 1892, 1893, 1894, 1910, 1916, 1917, 1933, 1942, 1947, 1956, 1959, 1961, 1970, 1975, 1983, 1988, 1994.

DROUGHT YEARS: During the period 1871-2015, there were 26 major drought years, defined as years with AISMR less than one standard deviation below the mean (i.e., anomaly below -10%; red bars above):

1873, 1877, 1899, 1901, 1904, 1905, 1911, 1918, 1920, 1941, 1951, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1972, 1974, 1979, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1987, 2002, 2004, 2009, 2014, 2015.

It is interesting to note that there have been alternating periods extending to 3-4 decades with less and more frequent weak monsoons over India. For example, the 44-year period 1921-64 witnessed just three drought years; during such epochs, the monsoon was found to be less correlated with the ENSO. During the other periods like that of 1965-87 which had as many as 10 drought years out of 23, the monsoon was found to be strongly linked to the ENSO (Parthasarathy et al., 1991).


As is pointed out, there appear to be ENSO related cycles of drought and flood. The 1900 to 1920 period is dominated by drought years, as is the 1960s to 80s. In contrast the 1940s and 50s were much wetter.

But what is also apparent is that extremes were much more common in the past, both wet and dry. The above chart only runs to 2017, but as we can see below none of the last four years have exceeded the 10% anomaly (nor has this year, although it is not yet shown):

All India Summer Monsoon Rainfall


It is particularly worth noting the drought of 1878. According to Wiki:


The Great Famine of 1876–1878 was a famine in India under Crown rule. It began in 1876 after an intense drought resulted in crop failure in the Deccan Plateau.[1] It affected south and Southwestern India—the British-administered presidencies of Madras and Bombay, and the princely states of Mysore and Hyderabad—for a period of two years. In 1877, famine came to affect regions northward, including parts of the Central Provinces and the North-Western Provinces, and a small area in the Punjab.[2] The famine ultimately affected an area of 670,000 square kilometres (257,000 sq mi) and caused distress to a population totalling 58,500,000.[2] The excess mortality in the famine has been estimated in a range whose low end is 5.6 million human fatalities, high end 9.6 million fatalities, and a careful modern demographic estimate 8.2 million fatalities.[3][4] The famine is also known as the Southern India famine of 1876–1878 and the Madras famine of 1877.

The Great Famine may have partially been caused by an intense drought resulting in crop failure in the Deccan Plateau.[1] It was part of a larger pattern of drought and crop failure across India, China, South America and parts of Africa caused by an interplay between a strong El Niño and an active Indian Ocean Dipole that led to between 19 and 50 million deaths.[5]


It gives the lie to the myth that weather disasters did not happen in the past.

The other major problem for India and its neighbours is tropical cyclone activity.

TCs in the Indian Ocean have a slightly different classification to the Saffir-Simpson scale. The strongest ones are labelled “Extremely severe cyclonic storms” and “Super cyclonic storms” – the latter are broadly similar to Cat 5s, and the first are similar to Cat 3s and 4s. Both categories are counted in the chart below:




There is plainly no evidence of increasing trends.

interestingly the he world’s highest recorded storm surge of 45 feet occurred in this region, during the 1876 Bakherganj cyclone near Meghna Estuary, Bangladesh. As you will note, this was the year when the Great Famine began.

There is no evidence whatsoever that the climate is getting worse in India. While India is not the whole of the world, and there may be perfectly natural regional variations elsewhere, India is one of the few places outside of the developed world that has high quality and continuous data back to the 19thC.

And that data destroys the basic assumption behind demands for reparations, that a warmer planet by itself inevitably makes droughts, floods and storms worse.



November 11, 2022 at 07:53AM

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