Chasing the Monsoon

This is a good book to have had this summer... maybe. As the monsoon remains elusive and I sit sweltering in the Delhi heat and humidity, a book who's title caught my eye is R R Kelkar's Monsoon Prediction, from B S Publications, Hyderabad.

Describing the book, Professor Kelkar says "The monsoon makes promises, but does not always keep them. The monsoon rainfall is grossly uneven and India has some of the wettest places on earth and also the driest. The rainfall is not uniform in time either, being interspersed with dry spells. Each year’s monsoon is a unique blend of cloud and sunshine and in the strictest sense, it has no past analogues. This is what makes monsoon prediction a scientifically challenging task."

He should know. Having retired as Director General of the Meterological Department, Kelkar has written a book on Satellite Meterology as well. "Monsoons are observed over many parts of the world but the Indian southwest monsoon is the strongest of all. It has linkages with the global atmospheric circulation, and it is an important component of the earth’s total climate system. The Indian southwest monsoon is India’s only source of water. It sustains the livelihood of millions of Indian farmers and influences food production. It is a dominant factor in shaping India’s economic growth rate. It has moulded Indian culture and tradition, inspired poets, and set the notes of Indian classical music. The Indian southwest monsoon is indeed “the monsoon”.

The book discusses the current state of art of monsoon prediction, the present and future user requirements, the inherent limitations of science, and why monsoon prediction is a worthwhile scientific effort that needs to be pursued. It covers the different techniques of monsoon prediction on various space and time scales, ranging from mesoscale rainfall to the behaviour of the monsoon across the 21st century.

..... Today, with our satellites, models, computers and field experiments, we surely know far more about the monsoon than ever before. The paradox, however, is that our knowledge or appreciation of the monsoon does not necessarily imply our ability to predict it."

Point taken.

In our Earth Sciences section, Hardcover, 234 pages. Rs 895. ISBN: 9788178001852