Cold Summers, Shrinking Monsoon Season: How Record Artic Warming is Changing the Climate All Over the World

Arctic warming may be one of the reasons India´s monsoon season will be shorter this year – the early withdrawal in the beginning of October was predicted by a unique forecasting method by Elena Surovyatkina from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
Cold Summers, Shrinking Monsoon Season: How Record Artic Warming is Changing the Climate All Over the World
Artic Warming in April 2020. Surface air temperature maps using the NCEP/NCAR data. High-pressure area with high temperature is shown by red color, low temperature area around – by blue color. (Infographic by Nitin Babu George)

In the first half of 2020, Central Europe, central Asia and some parts of Fareast Asia experienced atypically cold weather. At the same time, Siberia was unusually warm in winter and spring. This happened because a large high-pressure area loomed over Eastern Russia all through this year's spring season. It not only caused an all-time high temperature record in the Arctic Circle in Northern Siberia (with temperatures in May up to 10°C above average and temperatures in the town of Verkhoyansk reaching up to 38°C) but had repercussions for the entire Northern hemisphere and around the world. “Because a band of clouds formed on the periphery of this hot zone, reflecting solar radiation, central Asia, the coastal area of Eurasia as well as Central Europe significantly cooled down”, explains Elena Surovyatkina, Senior Scientist and expert for Climate Dynamics at the Potsdam-Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Forecast: Early Monsoon withdrawal in 2020

While the temperature in Germany, for example, in spring and the first two months of summer was four degrees below average, the Artic warming had far more dramatic consequences for India – in particular for the rainy monsoon season which lasts from June to October. While the monsoon is a source and joy for the Indian population after the scorching heat of previous months, it can also bring heavy rainfall and floods.

Because the northern part of neighboring Pakistan experienced lower temperatures due to Artic warming, it is expected to shorten the length of this year's monsoon season in India: “When temperatures in North Pakistan are cooler than usual, it takes less time for the entire Indian subcontinent to cool down from northern Pakistan to the east coast of central India” says Surovyatkina. “That's why this year I forecast an early monsoon withdrawal from the Central part of India – between 3rd and 13th of October 2020.” This unique prediction, made 50 days in advance, is the only available forecast in India.

Overall, the examples of Germany and India demonstrate that Arctic warming has concrete, immediate and tangible effects for populations in various parts of the world: “If climate change is not mitigated according to the goals set by the Paris Agreement of 2015,” says Surovyatkina, “it is likely that we see even greater Arctic warming in the future, which in turn could lead to further irreversible climate change across the globe.”

Elena Surovyatkina is the group leader of the monsoon research within the EPICC project which is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI).

Weblink to PIK’s information page on the Indian Monsoon Forecast: