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Himalayan climate change threatens regional stability. Can India help?

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The majority of Indians, however, don’t live in scientific studies and statistics. They live life in line with the extreme seasons and their famous monsoon. Precipitation during the monsoon is vital to the health of the Himalayan glaciers, as well as the downstream region’s agriculture.

Monsoons increasingly unpredictable

Yet climate data suggests the monsoon is becoming more unpredictable, translating to decreases in food production, scarcer water supplies, harsher cycles of flooding, and severe drought. Earlier this year, floods in Pakistan killed thousands and left millions homeless in one of the worst natural disasters the world has ever seen.

Over the past 50 years, according to data from the Indian Meteorological Department, the frequency and magnitude of extreme rainfall events has increased over central India during the monsoon, while moderate events have decreased.

This is a major problem. The moderate rainfall events are needed to feed crops and recharge aquifers, while extreme events often lead to flooding in both rural and urban areas. Scientific modeling suggests that the overall atmospheric circulation that drives the monsoon system is weakening, leading to extreme events early in the season, followed by increased droughts toward the end. Local rainfall records and ice core data also suggest a decrease in overall monsoon strength over the past century over the Himalayan region.

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