Over 25 per cent of India continued to face drought conditions in December with 2023 proving to be the warmest year on record since 1850, an arm of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said. 

The drought situation, however, saw a marginal recovery as 26.3 per cent of the country faced drought in November, NOAA’s arm National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) said in its “Global Drought Overview ‘‘ this month.

Short-lived ‘Michaung’

The situation improved a tad in India as a large swath across the middle, and parts of southern Asia, were wetter than normal. This was due to the positive rainfall anomaly over the western Indian Ocean and a short-lived Cyclone Michaung hitting eastern India with heavy rainfall, both early in the month. “Drought conditions were confirmed over northern, eastern, and coastal southwestern parts of India on the India Drought Monitor, covering about 25.6 per cent of the nation, which is a little less than last month. 

“In 2023, Asia had the second warmest year on record, continent-wide, with parts of Russia, China, and the southern tier countries drier than normal for the year; Southwest Asia experienced especially severe and widespread drought in 2023,” the drought overview said.

El Nino impact

NOAA said in its annual climate review that dry conditions continued during December 2023 in South-West Asia besides other countries such as Australia, the Brazilian Amazon, the Mediterranean and much of Canada. “... above-normal precipitation helped to relieve drought conditions in parts of Europe, India, Argentina, Africa, Mexico, and Central America,” NOAA said. Global precipitation patterns in 2023 were associated with the current El Niño conditions. 

December temperatures were warmer than normal across much of North America, the northern half of South America, Australia, much of Europe, and southern parts of Asia, all consistent with El Niño teleconnections, the US weather agency said.

NOAA reiterated the find of Copernicus, the European weather agency. “During 2023, each monthly global surface temperature anomaly value ranked among the seven warmest with June through December each ranking as the warmest such month on record. 

Asia 2nd warmest

“The July global temperature value was likely the warmest of all months on record and the July, August, and September temperature anomalies each exceeded 1.0°C (1.8°F) above the long-term average for the first time on record. The September anomaly value of 1.44°C (2.59°F) was the largest positive monthly global temperature anomaly for any month on record,” it said.

Global ocean temperatures in 2023 were noteworthy with nine consecutive months (April–December) of record warm temperatures. 

NOAA said Asia had its second-warmest year on record at +2.09°C. The year 2023 marked the 27th consecutive year with temperatures above average. Asia’s 10 warmest years have occurred since 2007. Asia’s trend during the 1910–2023 period was +0.18°C per decade; however, the 1982–2023 trend is more than twice the longer-term trend, NOAA said.