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Monsoons in India – UPSC

Monsoons in India

The Monsoon in India is a big deal, and it’s a crucial part of the country’s climate. India has four seasons, and two of them are all about the monsoon. This special weather system is a big player in India’s GDP, especially because the country relies a lot on agriculture. The Indian monsoon doesn’t just stick to itself—it influences the water bodies around it. It kicks off from the northeast when things are cooler, but when it gets hot, it switches directions and blows in from the southwest. That’s when we get a lot of rain, making June and July the monsoon months in India.

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Monsoon in India is like its special rainy guest, bringing heavy but short bursts of rain. It’s part of a group of four major monsoon systems worldwide: Asian-Australian, North American, South American, and West African.

The word “monsoon” comes from the Arabic term “Mawsim,” which means seasons. Monsoon basically refers to the seasonal winds that bring rain at specific times of the year in different parts of the world. In India, we experience the southwest monsoon winds in the summer, bringing rain, and the northeast monsoon winds in the winter do the same dance.

Types of Monsoons in India

  • The farmers in India eagerly anticipate the arrival of the monsoon, which plays a crucial role in the country’s agriculture. India, being predominantly an agricultural economy, relies heavily on a good monsoon season.
  • There are two types of monsoons in India – the Southwest Monsoon and the Northeast Monsoon.
  • The Southwest Monsoon is the primary rainy season, covering most of the country, while the Northeast Monsoon affects the northeast region. Monsoons in India typically occur between April and September, making the summer season vital for rainfall in India and Southeast Asia.

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South West Monsoon

In India, the Southwest monsoon brings a lot of rain, and it all starts with the scorching heat on the Tibetan Plateau during the summer. This heat creates a low-pressure area, while a high-pressure system forms southward in the Indian Ocean. The rains during the Southwest monsoon happen because of big air currents moving over the warm equatorial ocean, causing a lot of evaporation.

  1. After crossing the equator, the Southwest winds split into two directions, heading over the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. This split occurs when the Southwest monsoon winds encounter the Western Ghats.
  2. The monsoon in the Arabian Sea region is more forceful compared to the Bay of Bengal region.
  3. The ocean’s surface experiences high evaporation levels, leading to the formation of water vapor. As the Southwest monsoon winds, laden with water vapor, move northward, they gradually cool above the land surface.
  4. As the air reaches its saturation point and cannot hold more moisture, it results in heavy rainfall.
  5. Occasionally, the area experiences intense downpours, leading to floods.
  6. Kerala is the first state in India to witness rainfall during the Southwest monsoon.
  7. The Tamil Nadu coast generally stays dry during the Southwest monsoon, as Tamil Nadu receives its rainfall in the winter months from the Northeastern trade winds.

North East Monsoon

During winter, the Northeast monsoon kicks in because of high pressure building up over Siberia and the Tibetan Plateaus. These Northeastern winds play a crucial role in bringing rain to the Southeast coast of India, which includes the Tamil Nadu coast and the southern coast of Seemandhra.

  • In the Northeast monsoon, winds move from the sea towards the land, carrying moisture from the Indian Ocean.
  • South India is significantly impacted by the Northeast monsoon, bringing rainfall to areas like Puducherry, Karaikal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Yanam, Mahe, and Karnataka.
  • This monsoon season occurs from October to December.
  • During these three months, Tamil Nadu experiences heavy rainfall.
  • In fact, 48% of the total annual rainfall in Tamil Nadu happens during this period.

Impact of Monsoons in India


  • For around 64% of India’s population, agriculture is not just a profession but a way of life. The success of this livelihood hinges significantly on the timely and well-distributed monsoon rainfall.
  • The prosperity of India’s agriculture is intricately linked to the monsoon cycle, showcasing regional variations that enable the cultivation of diverse crops. This diversity reflects in the rich tapestry of food, clothing, and housing styles across the country.
  • Monsoon rains play a crucial role in replenishing dams and reservoirs, forming a vital water source for hydro-electric power generation. This sustainable approach contributes to the country’s energy needs.
  • Winter rainfall, facilitated by temperate cyclones in northern India, proves to be a boon for Rabi crops, enhancing agricultural output during the winter season.


  • Unfortunately, the unpredictable nature of rainfall leads to either droughts or floods annually in certain regions. This variability poses a constant challenge to farmers and communities dependent on agriculture.
  • Sudden bursts of monsoon rains contribute to soil erosion across large areas, creating a significant problem for agriculture. The soil, a precious resource, is lost to erosion, affecting productivity.
  • In hilly terrains, abrupt rainfall can trigger landslides, causing damage to both natural landscapes and infrastructure. This not only poses an economic setback but also disrupts the social fabric of communities, impacting lives and livelihoods.

Factors Affecting Monsoon in India

  • Variable Heating and Cooling: The monsoon happens in tropical areas between 20 degrees North and 20 degrees South. This is because of the uneven heating and cooling of both land and water.
  • Tibetan Plateau’s Heat: In the summer, the Tibetan plateau gets really hot. This intense heat plays a role in the monsoon’s behavior.
  • High-Pressure Area Near Madagascar: To the south, about 20 degrees over the Indian Ocean, there’s a high-pressure zone near Madagascar. This also affects the monsoon in India.
  • Tropical Easterly Jet: There are fast-moving winds in the upper atmosphere known as the Tropical Easterly Jet or African Easterly Jet. These influence the monsoon as well.
  • Southern Oscillation: Every so often, there’s a change in the temperature of the sea surface and winds in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean. This irregular variation is called the Southern Oscillation, and it has an impact on the monsoon too.

Mechanism of Monsoon in India

  • India heavily depends on the monsoon season due to its primarily agriculture-based economy. However, the exact origin of the Indian monsoon remains a mystery, and various theories attempt to explain its mechanism both in India and globally.
  • The monsoon season primarily occurs in the tropical region between 20 degrees North and 20 degrees South. The Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) plays a crucial role in facilitating the monsoon. As the sun moves, the ITCZ shifts north and south of the equator, influencing the occurrence of monsoons.
  • The movement of the ITCZ is a key factor in the monsoon cycle. For instance, when the ITCZ is positioned over the Indo-Gangetic Plain in July, the region experiences a South-West monsoon.
  • Another theory suggests that the heating of the Tibetan plateau leads to the formation of jet streams, known as the tropical easterly jet stream (TEJ). This, in turn, creates a high-pressure cell over the Indian Ocean, contributing to the onset of the monsoon in India.

Importance of Monsoon in India

In India, our economy is closely tied to agriculture, and rainfall plays a crucial role in this connection. The monsoon season is like a blessing because it doesn’t just impact the well-being of our people but also has a direct influence on our country’s economic growth, measured by the GDP. The significance of the Indian monsoon cannot be overstated. Let’s explore a few reasons why it holds such importance.

  • We all eagerly await the monsoon in India because it plays a crucial role in the growth of our essential crops and veggies.
  • Since a significant portion of our country’s land is dedicated to farming, the monsoon’s impact on agriculture is enormous.
  • Insufficient rainfall can lead to the unfortunate loss of the crops we’ve worked so hard to grow.
  • When the monsoon isn’t favorable, it directly hits the income of farmers and affects the livelihoods of many who depend on agriculture for their jobs.
  • On the brighter side, a good monsoon brings more than just relief from dry spells. It also means increased hydroelectric power generation, providing around a quarter of India’s electricity.

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