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Q. "Flash droughts, during Indian monsoons, are detrimental in India due to intensive agriculture primarily in the rain-fed regions". In this context, discuss the reasons for the occurrence of flash droughts and suggest measures to reduce its impacts.

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Flash droughts are a type of extreme event distinguished by a sudden onset and rapid intensification of drought conditions with severe impacts. They unfold on subseasonal-to-seasonal timescales (weeks to months), presenting a new challenge for the surge of interest in improving subseasonal-to-seasonal prediction.
Long-term monsoon breaks i.e. prolonged dry spells during the season are leading to a unique to flash droughts in India. They are affecting Kharif crops and groundwater depletion.


Difference between conventional Droughts and Flash Droughts

In contrast with conventional drought, which is mainly driven by lack of precipitation, flash drought usually includes abnormally high temperatures, winds, and/or incoming radiation that leads to abnormally high evapotranspiration (ET) rates.
Unlike conventional droughts that develop over months, flash droughts intensify very quickly. This happens because rains stay away for 15-20 days at a stretch.

Reasons for the occurrence of flash Drought:
Break-in monsoon:
The majority of the country-level and regional scale flash droughts in India occur during the monsoon season. More than 82% of country-level flash droughts occurred during the monsoon season in India.
A considerably long dry spell with significantly low precipitation anomalies during the monsoon results in an increase in air temperature. Increased air temperature and precipitation deficit together cause a rapid depletion of soil moisture leading to flash drought. Therefore, flash droughts in the monsoon season are primarily caused by the monsoon breaks.
Increase air temperature:
Flash droughts generally have short periods of warm surface temperature. The increased air temperature depletes the newly replenished soil moisture in the surface due to the monsoon.
The depletion of soil moisture:
The decrease in soil moisture due to warm, dry atmospheric conditions along with anthropogenic reasons such as intense cropping and cropping of water-intensive crops in low moisture areas delete the soil moisture at a rapid pace resulting in flash droughts.
Delayed onset of summer monsoon:
It leads to precipitation deficit, which in turn increases the surface temperature thus contributing to flash droughts.

Detrimental effects of flash droughts on intensive agriculture:
Intensive agriculture is a type of agriculture in which a large amount of labour and capital relative to the area, for higher productivity.
Increase demand for irrigation water: Flash drought causes rapid depletion of soil moisture, thus irrigation water demands can be increased in agricultural regions.
Reduction in yield of crops:
Precipitation deficit and lack of soil moisture lead to the reduction in yield of crops like rice and maize up to an extent of 10-15%.
It had impacted crop production, in three years 1979, 1986 and 2001.
A large part of the rice and maize grown area was affected by the flash droughts during 1951–2018. About 10%–15% of rice and maize grown area is affected by the flash droughts each year in India.

Ways to reduce the impacts of flash droughts:
Watershed management: decentralized watershed management will aid in better water management and thus utilization of water resources in a more productive way.
Water conservation: traditional methods of water conservation such as rooftop conservation, rainwater conservation, etc. can be used for water conservation for its productive use during such droughts.
Better forecasting models: for better forecasting of monsoon and break in monsoon.
Soil-specific agriculture: this will contribute to the conservation of soil organic carbon and soil moisture.
Interlinking of river projects: The government of India is embarking upon the policy of interlinking of rivers for diverting water to rain deprived regions.

Extreme weather events such as flash droughts are on the rise in the past few decades due to increased global warming and climate change. Thus, to counter such tendencies there is a need for coordinated global effort and holistic policies.

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