News Excerpt
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.

Way forward
    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.