Uncovering consistencies in Indian rainfall trends observed over the last half century


Food security in India is tightly linked to rainfall variability. Trends in Indian rainfall records have been extensively studied but the subject remains complicated by the high spatiotemporal variability of rainfall arising from complex atmospheric dynamics. For various reasons past studies have often produced inconsistent results. This paper presents an analysis of recent trends in monthly and seasonal cumulative rainfall depth, number of rainy days and maximum daily rainfall, and in the monsoon occurrence (onset, peak and retreat). A modified version of the Mann-Kendall test, accounting for the scaling effect, was applied to 29 variables derived from square-degree-resolution daily gridded rainfall (1951–2007). The mapping of gridded trend slopes and the regional average Kendall test were used concurrently to assess the field significance of regional trends in areas exhibiting spatial homogeneity in trend directions. The statistics we used account for temporal and spatial correlations, and thus reduce the risk of overestimating the significance of local and regional trends. Our results i/ improve available knowledge (e.g. 5 %-field-significant delay of the monsoon onset in Northern India); ii/ provide a solid statistical basis to previous qualitative observations (e.g. 1 %-field-significant increase/decrease in pre-monsoon rainfall depth in northeast/southwest India); and, iii/ when compared to recent studies, show that the field significance level of regional trends (e.g. in rainfall extremes) is test-dependent. General trend patterns were found to align well with the geography of anthropogenic atmospheric disturbances and their effect on rainfall, confirming the paramount role of global warming in recent rainfall changes.


Lacombe, G.; McCartney, M. Uncovering consistencies in Indian rainfall trends observed over the last half century. Climatic Change (2014) 123 (2) 287-299. [DOI: 10.1007/s10584-013-1036-5]

Published 1 January 2014