Onset of the ISMR displays substantial interannual variability and this variability is traditionally linked to sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies over the tropical Pacific Ocean. The tropical Pacific SST underwent a regime shift during 1976/77. We report a prominent delay in the Indian summer monsoon (ISM) onset following the regime shift. The onset dates are computed with the Hydrologic Onset and Withdrawal Index, based on vertically integrated moisture transport over the Arabian Sea (AS). The shift in onset is found to be due to the change in moisture availability over the AS. A delay in the development of easterly vertical shear reduces northward-propagating intraseasonal variability during May–June, limiting the moisture supply from the equatorial Indian Ocean (IO) to the AS. This, along with enhanced precipitation over the IO during the pre-monsoon, drives a reduction in moisture availability over the AS region from pre- to post-1976/77, delaying the ISM onset in recent decades. Our findings highlight the need for the re-assessment of the crop calendar in India, which is now based on the mean onset date computed from long-term data, without considering the regime shift or trends in onset.

Reference: Sahana, A. S., Ghosh, S., Ganguly, A. and Murtugudde, R. (2015), Shift in Indian Summer Monsoon Onset during 1976/1977, Environ. Res. Lett. 10 054006

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