Context: Long-term monsoon breaks — prolonged dry spells during the season — are leading to a unique phenomenon called flash droughts in India, affecting kharif crops and groundwater depletion.

  • A new study has now pointed out that India could experience more flash droughts by the end of this century.
  • The ongoing climate change has caused a significant increase in global temperature and this can lead to more and more flash droughts in the coming years.


  • Flash drought refers to a severe drought kind of situation that develops very rapidly. 

    • Flash droughts are those that occur very quickly, with soil moisture depleting rapidly. 

    • This happens because rains stay away for 15-20 days at a stretch.

    • Normally, developing drought conditions take months, but these happen within a week or in two weeks’ time in abnormal conditions. 

    • In India, 82 per cent of such extreme weather events happen during the monsoon period.

  • Factors behind: Several factors including atmospheric anomalies, anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions play an important role.

About the study:

  • The team analysed the major flash droughts that occurred from 1951 to 2016 in India. 
  • To predict the future flash droughts the team used a Community Earth System Model which simulates the summer monsoon precipitation, sea surface temperature, role of El Nino Southern Oscillation, and air temperature over India. 
  • They also examined the role of greenhouse gas emissions, industrial aerosols, and land-use/land-cover change. 
  • They conclude that this increased frequency of flash droughts can have deleterious implications for crop production, irrigation demands and groundwater abstraction in India.


  • Flash droughts had severe impacts and occurred when regular drought conditions rapidly intensified. 
  • This made it more urgent to accurately identify the physical processes behind their origins.
  • The occurrence of flash droughts and their characteristics have not been examined in India,
  • Understanding the occurrence and their seasonal variability is vital as flash droughts can be more detrimental in India due to intensive agriculture primarily in the rain-fed regions.

If we can meet the ‘Paris Agreement’ goals and limit global warming to well below 2 degrees C, the numbers and frequency of the projected flash droughts may go down.

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