According to traditional Indian culture the Indian subcontinent undergoes six seasons, with the approximate duration of each being two months. These are as follows – spring, summer, monsoons, early autumn, late autumn & winter. But according to the modern climatic studies India has only three predominant seasons they are summer season, rainy season and winter season. The summer months lasts from about March to June, the rainy season stretches from June to October and the winter season remains in India from November to March. Various climatic factors are responsible for the seasonal changes in India.
The monsoon season is pretty fervent in India with heavy clouds drenching most parts of India. The summer season is pretty hectic too with India being a tropical country most parts of India are scorched with sweltering heat. The Indian winter is usually mild and enjoyable in comparison to the other temperate countries of the world.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) designates four official seasons:
Season # 1. Winter:
Once the monsoons subside, average temperatures gradually fall across India. As the Sun’s vertical rays move south of the equator, most of the country experiences moderately cool weather; temperatures change by about 0.6°C (1.08°F) per degree of latitude. December and January are the coldest months, with mean temperatures of 10 – 15°C (50 – 59°F) in Indian Himalayas. Mean temperatures are higher in the east and south, where they reach 20 – 25°C (68 – 77°F).
In northwestern India, virtually cloudless conditions prevail in October and November, resulting in wide diurnal temperature swings; as in much of the Deccan Plateau, they range between 16°C (28.8°F) – 20°C (36.0°F). However, from March to May, “western disturbances” bring heavy bursts of rain and snow. These extra-tropical low-pressure systems originate in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
They are carried towards India by the subtropical westerlies, which are the prevailing winds blowing at North India’s range of latitude. Once their passage is hindered by the Himalayas, they are unable to proceed further, and they release significant precipitation over the southern Himalayas. The three Himalayan states (Jammu and Kashmir in the extreme north, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand) experience heavy snowfall; in Jammu and Kashmir, blizzards occur regularly, disrupting travel and other activities.
The rest of North India, including the Indo-Gangetic Plain, almost never receives snow. However, in the plains, temperatures occasionally fall below freezing, though never for more one or two days. Winter highs in Delhi range from 16°C (61°F) to 21°C (70°F). Nighttime temperatures average 2-8°C (36-46°F). In the Punjab plains, lows can fall below freezing, dropping to around “6°C (21°F) in Amritsar. Frost sometimes occurs, but the hallmark of the season is the notorious fog, which frequently disrupts daily life; fog grows thick enough to hinder visibility and disrupt air travel 15–20 days annually.
Eastern India’s climate is much milder, experiencing moderately warm days and cool nights. Highs range from 23°C (73°F) in Patna to 26°C (79°F) in Kolkata (Calcutta); lows average from 8°C (46°F) in Patna to 14°C (57°F) in Kolkata. Frigid winds from the Himalayas can depress temperatures near the Brahmaputra River. The two Himalayan states in the east, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, receive substantial snowfall. The extreme north of West Bengal, centred around Darjeeling, also experiences snowfall, but only rarely.
In South India, particularly the hinterland of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, parts of Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh, somewhat cooler weather prevails. Minimum temperatures in western Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh hover around 10°C (50°F); in the southern Deccan Plateau, they reach 16°C (61°F).
Coastal areas, especially those near the Coromandel Coast, and low- elevation interior tracts are warm, with daily high temperatures of 30°C (86°F) and lows of around 21°C (70°F). The Western Ghats, including the Nilgiri Range, are exceptional; there, lows can fall below freezing. This compares with a range of 12°C (21.6°F) – 14°C (25.2°F) on the Malabar Coast; there, as is the case for other coastal areas, the Indian Ocean exerts a strong moderating influence on weather.
Season # 2. Summer:
Summer in northwestern India lasts from April to July, and in the rest of the country from March to June. The temperatures in the north rise as the vertical rays of the Sun reach the Tropic of Cancer. The hottest month for the western and southern regions of the country is April; for most of North India, it is May. Temperatures of 50°C (122°F) and higher have been recorded in parts of India during this season.
In cooler regions of North India, immense pre-monsoon squall-line thunderstorms, known locally as “Nor’westers”, commonly drop large hailstones. Near the coast the temperature hovers around 36°C (9°F), and the proximity of the sea increases the level of humidity. In southern India, the temperatures are higher on the east coast by a few degrees compared to the west coast.
By May, most of the Indian interior experiences mean temperatures over 32°C (9°F), while maximum temperatures often exceed 40°C (104°F). In the hot months of April and May, western disturbances, with their cooling influence, may still arrive, but rapidly diminish in frequency as summer progresses. Notably, a higher frequency of such disturbances in April correlates with a delayed monsoon onset (thus extending summer) in northwest India. In eastern India, monsoon onset dates have been steadily advancing over the past several decades, resulting in shorter summers there.
Altitude affects the temperature to a large extent, with higher parts of the Deccan Plateau and other areas being relatively cooler. Hill stations, such as Ootacamund (“Ooty”) in the Western Ghats and Kalimpong in the eastern Himalayas, with average maximum temperatures of around 25°C (77°F), offer some respite from the heat.
At lower elevations, in parts of northern and western India, a strong, hot, and dry wind known as the Loo blows in from the west during the daytime; with very high temperatures, in some cases up to around 45°C (113°F); it can cause fatal cases of sunstroke. Tornadoes may also occur, concentrated in a corridor stretching from northeastern India towards Pakistan. They are rare, however; only several dozen have been reported since 1835.
Season # 3. Monsoon:
The southwest summer monsoon, a four-month period when massive convective thunderstorms dominate India’s weather, is Earth’s most productive wet season. A product of southeast trade winds originating from a high-pressure mass centered over the southern Indian Ocean, the monsoonal torrents supply over 80% of India’s annual rainfall.
Attracted by a low-pressure region centered over South Asia, the mass spawns surface winds that ferry humid air into India from the southwest. These inflows ultimately result from a northward shift of the local jet stream, which itself results from rising summer temperatures over Tibet and the Indian subcontinent. The void left by the jet stream, which switches from a route just south of the Himalayas to one tracking north of Tibet, then attracts warm, humid air.
The main factor behind this shift is the high summer temperature difference between Central Asia and the Indian Ocean. This is accompanied by a seasonal excursion of the normally equatorial inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ), a low-pressure belt of highly unstable weather, northward towards India. This system intensified to its present strength as a result of the Tibetan Plateau’s uplift, which accompanied the Eocene-Oligocene transition event, a major episode of global cooling and aridification which occurred 34 – 49 Ma.
The southwest monsoon arrives in two branches – the Bay of Bengal branch and the Arabian Sea branch. The latter extends toward a low- pressure area over the Thar Desert and is roughly three times stronger than the Bay of Bengal branch.
The monsoon typically breaks over Indian Territory by around 25 May, when it lashes the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. It strikes the Indian mainland around 1 June near the Malabar Coast of Kerala. By 9 June, it reaches Mumbai; it appears over Delhi by 29 June. The Bay of Bengal branch, which initially tracks the Coromandal Coast northeast from Cape Comorin to Orissa, swerves to the northwest towards the Indo-Gangetic Plain.
The Arabian Sea branch moves northeast towards the Himalayas. By the first week of July, the entire country experiences monsoon rain; on average, South India receives more rainfall than North India. However, Northeast India receives the most precipitation. Monsoon clouds begin retreating from North India by the end of August; it withdraws from Mumbai by 5 October. As India further cools during September, the southwest monsoon weakens. By the end of November, it has left the country.
Monsoon rains impact the health of the Indian economy; as Indian agriculture employs 600 million people and composes 20% of the national GDP, good monsoons correlate with a booming economy. Weak or failed monsoons (droughts) result in widespread agricultural losses and substantially hinder overall economic growth. The rains reduce temperatures and replenish groundwater tables, rivers, and lakes.
Season # 4. Post-Monsoon:
During the post-monsoon months of October to December, a different monsoon cycle, the north-east (or “retreating”) monsoon, brings dry, cool, and dense Central Asian air masses to large parts of India. Winds spill across the Himalayas and flows to the south-west across the country, resulting in clear, sunny skies. Though the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and other sources refers to this period as a fourth (“post-monsoon”) season, other sources designate only three seasons.
Depending on location, this period lasts from October to November, after the southwest monsoon has peaked. Less and less precipitation falls, and vegetation begins to dry out. In most parts of India, this period marks the transition from wet to dry seasonal conditions. Average daily maximum temperatures range between 28 and 34°C (82 and 93°F). The northeast monsoon, which begins in September, lasts through the post-monsoon seasons, and only ends in March, carries winds that have already lost their moisture while crossing central Asia and the vast rain shadow region lying north of the Himalayas.
They cross India diagonally from northeast to southwest. However, the large indentation made by the Bay of Bengal into India’s eastern coast means that the flows are humidified before reaching Cape Comorin and rest of Tamil Nadu, meaning that the state, and also some parts of Kerala, experience significant precipitation in the post-monsoon and winter periods. However, parts of West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and North-East India also receive minor precipitation from the northeast monsoon.