How The Arctic Has Wielded Influence On India’s Monsoon For At Least 1,000 Years

A recent climate reconstruction study reveals that the Arctic has been impacting India’s monsoon for at least 1,000 years.

Warm and cold climatic spells in the Arctic, over the past 1,000 years, imprinted on India’s monsoon fluctuations during that period, a climate reconstruction study finds.

Warm Arctic conditions were linked to intense rainfall over the Indian subcontinent while cold conditions in the Arctic were associated with weak spells of rain over the Indian subcontinent over the past 1,000 years, said scientists at India’s National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research.

In collaboration with Norwegian counterparts, they reconstructed the past climate history from the Arctic region that’s warming faster than any other place on the planet. The scientists said the Arctic’s influence on the short-term changes in the Indian monsoon may become more pronounced as the region experiences further warming due to human actions.

“Large Arctic variabilities (greater than one standard deviation over the past 1000 years) served as a dominant control on Indian monsoon fluctuations during that period.”

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“We can anticipate that the monsoon will intensify alongside further Arctic warming, and the difference in precipitation between intense and weak monsoon years will also likely change,” Vikash Kumar from the Past Climate and Ocean Studies division at National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research told Mongabay-India.

Faced with the brevity of instrumental weather records from the Arctic (60-100 years), Kumar and colleagues pulled out a 51 cm-long sediment sample from the seafloor at Kongsfjorden, an icy archipelago in Svalbard in the Arctic, to extend the time series for sea conditions 1000 years back in time.

They collected the samples during the Kongsfjorden-Rijpfjorden Cruise in 2014 onboard the research vessel Lance. Back at National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, they looked at the materials trapped in the sediment core. Approximately 2% of the sediment’s weight consisted of marine and land-transported organic matter.

Research activity at Kongsfjorden on a research boat. Credit: India’s National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research

Kumar and colleagues analysed the elemental and isotopic compositions of these materials in the lab and measured specific biogeochemical parameters, to reconstruct the region’s climate history for the past 1000 years (1107 to 1967).

“Presently, the Indian monsoon’s year-to-year variations are primarily driven by tropical factors. However, the Arctic’s influence on the short-term variability of the Indian monsoon may become more significant as the region experiences further warming. Our study supports this idea,” Kumar added.

According to Victor Gensini, a meteorology professor at Northern Illinois University, the reason why the US leads the world in weather catastrophes is due to the Gulf of Mexico and the elevated terrain to the west.

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