Heavy Rain, Unreliable Rain or No Rain
Rainfall during the monsoon can be intense and may result in severe flooding. For instance, the town of Cherrapunji was inundated by three feet of rain which fell in the course of a single day. In some regions, as much as 40 feet of rain may fall in the course of the monsoon season.
India is the world’s most populated democracy. With a population of almost 1.2 billion people, agricultural output is critical. A good knowledge of when, where and how intense the monsoon will be is critical to farmers to help them know when to sow their crops. If the monsoonal rains are late (or fails to come), farmers delay planting crops, fearing drought. If the monsoon sputters, seedlings may wither and die during the drier period. If the monsoon is very intense, the seedlings may drown or be washed away – agriculture in monsoonal India is a precarious affair! The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology is actively researching the monsoon and adjusting the “hindsight" forecasting of its models to gain better predictions for future monsoon seasons.
If the monsoon rains fail, food will be in short supply. In the modern world, India would be able to call upon its own strategic food reserves or import food from elsewhere, but this was not always the case. In 1770, a failure of the monsoon lead to a famine which claimed 10 million lives in the state of Bengal. On the other hand, too much rain also claims lives. It is estimated that, on average, 1000 Indians will lose their lives in flooding (often flash floods) each year.