India Matters – Monsoons

This section addresses relevant issues and facts about different parts of India through the 6Ws and 1H question answer format.

Monsoons:

What does the word mean?
How does the monsoon occur?
Where do the monsoon winds come from?
When does the monsoon season start in India?
Why is it important?
Which are the countries which experience monsoons?
Who are the people most affected by the monsoons?
What does the word mean?
The word ‘Monsoon’ comes from the Arabic mawsin, which means ‘season’. It was used by sailors to refer to the best time to set sail on the ancient sea routes to India, taking advantage of the strong winds which would help them cross the seas faster. Monsoon winds undergo complete seasonal change of direction, and that makes the name even more apt.
How does the monsoon occur?
Basically, monsoon winds blow from cold areas into warmer ones. How they form is a complex process, not yet fully understood. But put simply, in summer, the continent of Asia gets extremely hot. The hot air over the land rises, and creates a low pressure area. The air over the Indian ocean is colder, and so rushes in. The wet air causes continuous precipitation or rainfall.
Where do the monsoon winds come from?
The monsoon originates off the eastern coast of Africa. It starts mildly sometime in March, but gathers force with time. By June and July, the winds become really strong, and bring heavy rain to almost the whole of India as they advance over the subcontinent.
When does the monsoon season start in India?
There are two monsoon seasons in India – the south-west and the north-east. It is from the south-west monsoon that most of India gets its rain. From the Indian Ocean, it reaches Kerala first. It is usually very punctual, arriving on June 1st or 2nd. The season lasts till around August. The north-east monsoon winds flow in the reverse direction, bringing rain in October-November to Tamil Nadu and adjoining areas on the Eastern coast.
Why is it important?
India’s economy is heavily dependent on agriculture. And a large part of agriculture is dependent on the rains. That’s one reason why the monsoons are super-important in India. Also, the rains fill the dams which are used to generate hydro-electric power. If the monsoons fail, there may be power shortage, and industrial production may be affected. In short, the monsoons are important for the Indian economy as a whole.
Which are the countries which experience monsoons?
Although India and its immediate neighbours Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam are countries most commonly associated with monsoons, the season also brings rain to parts of Australia. Some areas in North America also experience monsoons, though in a much milder form than the Asian nations.
Who are the people most affected by the monsoons?
Farmers whose crops depend on good, as well as timely rainfall are the most affected by the monsoons. Too much or too little rain, too soon or too late, all cause problems. Life in general is affected too. A poor monsoon means water and power scarcity. Heavy rainfall causes floods and landslides, which results in widespread damage to property and sometimes even leads to loss of life.
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