Environment & Biodiversity

Western Disturbances

  • An extratropical storm known as a “western disturbance” develops in the Mediterranean Sea and brings abrupt winter rain to the Indian subcontinent’s northwest.
  • It is a westerly-driven non-monsoonal precipitation pattern.
  • These storms typically get their moisture from the Mediterranean, Caspian, and Black Seas.
  • Contrary to their tropical counterparts, which carry moisture in the lower atmosphere, extratropical storms are a worldwide phenomenon that often carry moisture in the upper atmosphere.
  • In the case of the Indian subcontinent, moisture is sometimes shed as rain when the storm system encounters the Himalayas.
  • Western disturbances are more frequent and strong in the winter season.

Impact of Winter Rainfall and Extreme Cold

  • The Indian Subcontinent has considerable snowfall in the mountains and moderate to heavy rain in low-lying areas due to western disturbances, particularly in the winter.
  • In northwest India, they are responsible for the majority of the winter and pre-monsoon precipitation.
  • During the winter, four to five western disturbances emerge on average.

Its importance

  • In agriculture, precipitation during the winter months is crucial, especially for the rabi crops.
  • One of the most significant crops among them, wheat contributes to India’s ability to meet its food security needs.
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