A study has found that about 10-15% areas under cultivation of rice and maize were affected by flash droughts during the monsoon seasons in India between 1951 and 2018.
• Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar identified 39 flash droughts during 1951-2018 and found that 82% of those occurred during the monsoon season.
What is Flash Drought?
• Flash drought refers to relatively short periods of warm surface temperature and anomalously low and rapid decreasing soil moisture (SM).
• Based on the physical mechanisms associated with flash droughts, we classify these events into two categories: heat wave and precipitation deficit flash droughts.
Flash Drought’s Impacts on Agriculture
Precipitation deficit and lack of soil moisture during a flash drought can lead to reduction in the yield of rice and maize.
About 21.5% of median area under rice and maize cultivation was affected by flash droughts during 1951-2018 monsoon season.
Flash droughts primarily affected rice cultivation in eastern and peninsular India.
In 1979, a large part of the rice-cultivated region of the Indo-Gangetic Plain and eastern India was severely affected; the 1982 flash drought during the monsoon season was widespread and affected the eastern and north-eastern regions.
Similarly, the maize-cultivated area (mostly central and peninsular India) was influenced by major flash droughts in 1972, 1976 and 2015.
The spatial coverage of soil moisture conditions during the peak of flash droughts showed that the land was extremely dry due to anomalously low precipitation and high temperature.
These conditions rapidly depleted soil moisture in the rice- and maize-dominated regions during the monsoon season, which affected agriculture negatively.
This stressed already depleting groundwater levels, a major source for irrigation in north India.
Investing in new and existing monitoring and observation networks, which would support the development of better indicators to provide early warning.
Improving the understanding of the relevant processes that inform forecast models in the region, which could improve seasonal forecasts to enhance drought preparedness.
Strengthening observations and monitoring—together with forecasts—would allow decision-makers to better assess their drought risk and determine the actions to be implemented.
Improving drought mitigation and response plans that consider trade-offs and actions that benefit both humans and ecosystem health and services should be in place before drought hits.
Cultivating the relationships and networks to share information between federal, state/provincial, tribal, and local officials before, during, and after drought would improve the process of drought preparedness and response.