The future of the Indian monsoon

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Meteorology


The Indian monsoon is one of the most dramatic components of the Earth's climate system. It provides around 80% of annual rainfall in the Indian region, home to more than one billion people, making accurate forecasting of its timing, intensity and duration vital for agriculture and industry, which is forming an increasing proportion of the Indian economy. The Indian monsoon varies on many different timescales: extreme rainfall events can bring cities to a standstill, monsoon 'breaks' lasting several weeks can destroy crops, and on seasonal timescales events like El Nino can cause drought. Our understanding of these different variations in the monsoon is limited, and the computer models used to simulate them are often inadequate. Furthermore, our understanding of what will happen to the monsoon, its variations and drivers and the interactions between them in a warming climate has not been properly addressed. This fellowship will help determine how the Indian monsoon will change in response to human-induced forcing by focussing on changes to the mean monsoon and its distribution, changes to its different timescales of variability, and the relationships between these different timescales of variability. It will also examine how errors in our computer models of the climate system can affect the simulation of the monsoon. The result will be the capability to produce more reliable forecasts in the short and long term, thus also enabling more useful adaptation to human-induced change. The fellowship will be undertaken at the Department of Meteorology in the University of Reading, an institute internationally renowned for its expertise in weather and climate research in the tropics. Advanced techniques will be used to compare output from several state-of-the-art models of the ocean and atmosphere with observations from raingauge networks and satellite datasets. Experiments will be performed using the Met Office Hadley Centre model on high performance supercomputing facilities to find the causes of changes to the monsoon. By working with the Met Office, the results from this work will feed into the Joint Climate Research Programme, and regular contact with scientists in India will ensure that immediate benefits from this work can be seen. This fellowship directly addresses NERC themes and key areas of research identified by UK and EU funders and the LWEC (Living With Environmental Change) programme.


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Description The fellowship examined the future of the Indian monsoon under climate change. While the consensus from research is that the monsoon will be robust, i.e. largely unchanged in respect to projected increases in greenhouse gas emissions, there are several uncertainties arising from other human-induced emissions, such as aerosol pollutants. These could result in reduced monsoon rainfall in the future, and may also have contributed to declining rainfall already over the last few decades. Furthermore, it is very uncertain how variations in the monsoon from week-to-week will change in the future.
Exploitation Route As described in the narrative impact, results of this research have been highly cited in the 5th IPCC report.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment

Description Results from Fellowship have been well-cited in the IPCC Fifth Assessment report, providing guidance on outcomes for the monsoon under changing climate. Findings have also informed subsequent (ongoing work) in the NERC SAPRISE project NE/I022841/1 or NE/I022469/1 regarding relative role of GHG and aerosol emissions in behaviour of South Asian monsoon over the 20th century.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

Description Improved Indo-UK capability for seamless forecasting of monsoon rainfall: from days to the season
Amount £186,250 (GBP)
Funding ID MM/SERP/Univ_Reading_UK/2013/INT-13/002 
Organisation Ministry of Earth Sciences 
Sector Public
Country India
Start 07/2014 
End 06/2017
Description Interaction of Convective Organisation and Monsoon Precipitation, Atmosphere, Surface and Sea (INCOMPASS)
Amount £1,100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/L01386X/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2015 
End 12/2018
Description Warming Indian Ocean, weaker Indian monsoon. Quoted in article published in the India Climate Dialogue website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Solicited quotes published in blog article relating to a high profile research article written by international colleagues.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015