Shifting Monsoons

Deforestation in the upper reaches of the Northern hemisphere spells monsoon decline for India

Given how Indian agriculture continues to be quite monsoon-dependent, a new report from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, sounds an early warning for the sector over the longer term. The study has found that deforestation in the high latitudes is going to cause monsoons in India to decline by 18%. It is well-acknowledged that deforestation in the temperate and high-latitudinal areas has a greater influence on climate phenomenon than deforestation in the tropics. While the overall impact on climate is yet to be fully understood, the study claims that this deforestation causes a decrease in precipitation monsoonal regions in the Northern hemisphere like South Asia, North Africa, North America and East Asia while it causes increased precipitation in the southern hemisphere’s monsoonal regions.

The study measures the precipitation and the shift of the inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ) (thunderstorms with rain-bearing clouds at the equator) that determines the rainfall patterns in the tropics. Boreal (temperate and high-latitude regions) deforestation causes the ITCZ to shift southwards, carrying with it the monsoonal clouds, corroborating the stance that remote-effects on monsoons outweigh the local effects. Deforestation continues to be one of the primary factors driving climate change. Given expansive vegetation is one of the most effective natural carbon sinks, deforestation increases the concentration of greenhouse gases. At the same time, it impacts rainfall as it significantly cuts down the volume of transpiration losses (evaporation of water exuded by plants during photosynthesis). The larger global climate agenda has focused primarily on carbon sequestration and cutting emissions. It now falls on India and other South East Asian nations who stand to lose from monsoonal shifts to draw attention to the reafforestation programmes as being of equal importance in climate change talks, considering the biophysical effects of remote deforestation.

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