The Indian climate is as extreme has the landscape. Tropical, archtic, dry, wet; it all depends on where you go. Let's look at some of the highs and lows.
How dry? The driest place in India is the Thar desert, in the state of Rajastan. Rainfall is less than 5 inches or 13 cm a year!
How wet? The wettest place in the whole world is a village in North-East India called Cherrapunji. Cherrapunji receives on around 433 inches (1100 cm) of rain a year. That’s well over 10 meters! In Britain, annual rainfall will be around 30 inches (75 cm). And we complain about the rain!
How cold? The coldest temperatures ever found in India are around -50 C on Himalayan peaks Nanda Devi and Kamet. On level ground, temperatures will rarely fall under 0 C. The coldest month is January.
How warm? The highest temperature recorded in India was 50.6 C at the edge of the Thar desert. In the summer (March to early June), temperatures often climb to 44 C or 45 C on the Northern Plains around New Delhi.
India has three seasons, summer, monsoon and winter. The Indian Summer lasts from March to June. The weather is uncomfortably warm in March, hot in April, and scorching in May. The temperature in the plains of northern India can go up to 45° Celsius. The southern region can be equally hot. Between 1pm and 4pm many of the shops will close, because it is too hot to do anything but sleep. Even the cows in the street lie dozing on the corners. People who have some extra money will pack their bags and head off to the hills and mountains where the weather is a bit cooler.
There are some places in South India, especially the two Southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala where the weather remains hot and humid throughout the year. People in south India say: ‘We have three seasons here: hot, hotter, and hottest’!
The States in the middle of India, such as Karnataka, Andra Pradesh, Orissa and Rajastan have the biggest problem with summer drought. These are the areas with the highest temperatures and without access to the sea. In these parts, tap water may only run for half an hour every day in the Summer months. Sometimes the taps are empty all week. The villages face even bigger problems. People may have to walk for hours or even days to find water. Summer is the hardest time, especially in the countryside. The earth cracks, the wells dry out and the cattle dies off. Tens of Millions of people have died in India because of drought in the last 300 years.
When India has waited for 8 or 9 months for a drop of rain, you can imagine what happens when the clouds gather and the first shower comes. All the children run out of their houses, and dance! On the terraces, in the street, and in the fields! The rains literally mean salvation and life for the country. Every year. The Indian harvest depends on it. Good monsoon? Good harvest!
The monsoon starts in the deep South, and crawls up the West coast and the East coast at the same time, like a snake. The monsoon may take a month to make that 2000 mile journey from the South to North. After that, the whole country gets hopefully doused with generous amounts of rain until the monsoon ends in October. The coastal regions receive more rain than the interior states, and the Thar desert stays almost dry. Well of course…that’s why it is a desert!
The Indian heat is extreme, and so are the rains. Every year India experiences severe floods in the North and North-East. In 2007, 19 million people were displaced because of floods. The images of multitudes who have lost their homes are a sad but common sight.
The Indian winter lasts from November to February. It is not a very strong winter by European standards. During the day, temperatures will be up in the eighties (25 C), and at night down to the fifties or sixties (5 C-15 C). For many people, winter is the favourite season for visiting India because of the mild days and cool nights. For those who prefer snow and ice; they will have to go up to the Himalayas. Most people in India have only seen snow on the movie screen.