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Western Disturbances in India, Origin, Formation, Effects

Western Disturbances

A Western Disturbance is an additional tropical cyclone that forms in the Mediterranean and moves westward, up to northern Bangladesh and south-eastern Nepal. It brings sudden winter rain to the northern portions of the Indian subcontinent.

It is a westerly-driven non-monsoonal precipitation pattern. These storms typically get their moisture from the Mediterranean Sea, the Caspian Sea, and the Black Sea.

In contrast to their tropical counterparts, which have moisture conveyed in the lower atmosphere, extra tropical storms are a worldwide phenomenon, with moisture often carried in the upper atmosphere. When a storm system comes into contact with the Himalayas in the instance of the Indian subcontinent, moisture can occasionally be shed as rain. Wintertime sees an increase in the frequency and intensity of Western disturbances.

Western Disturbances Formation

The extratropical storm known as Western Disturbance has its origins in the Mediterranean Sea. The influx of cold air from the Polar Regions towards an area of relatively warmer air with significant moisture is caused by a high-pressure system that is displayed over regions like Russia and neighbouring countries. An extratropical depression that moves eastward is formed in the sea as a result of this pressure change from cold to warm air, which creates ideal circumstances for cyclogenesis in the upper layer of the atmosphere.

Storm refers to low pressure when the term “extra-tropical storm” is used. It is outside of the tropics to be “extra-tropical.” The term “extra-tropical” has been applied to the WD since they are extra-tropical in origin. These eventually make their way onto the Indian subcontinent after progressively crossing the Middle East from Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Western Disturbances Variation

Due to western disturbances, Delhi in 2021 experienced the wettest October in 65 years, with the Safdarjung weather observatory recording 122.5 mm of rainfall compared to an average of 28 mm.
Additionally, this year’s January and February saw above-average precipitation. In contrast, neither November 2021 nor March 2022 had any precipitation, and the summer began abnormally early that year, with heat waves beginning at the end of March 2022. The maximum temperature was maintained low in February 2022, when the lowest maximum temperature in 19 years was recorded, by a number of western disturbances that brought cloud cover.

Northwest India in March 2022 avoided active western disturbances, and the lack of cloud cover and rain allowed temperatures to stay high.

Western Disturbances in India Effects

Since they also greatly contribute to soil erosion, western disturbances are not always a good thing. In the areas of Northern India, where rainfall is dispersed and density is very high, this frequently leads to the top layer of the earth being washed away. Similarly to this, they are to blame for extended cloud cover and warmer nighttime temperatures. Additionally, in cases of really heavy rain, severe crop damage is frequently noted, particularly when thick fog and mist prevail. Last but not least, the intense downpour causes major landslides and even avalanches in the area.

Therefore, the western disturbances play a vital role in the way they provide rain to India’s northern regions. They are extratropical storms; therefore in addition to causing rainfall in the area, they are a part of a highly particular and somewhat devastating environmental phenomenon.

The effects of these storms include how they change the local climate, and how they affect crop growth, soil erosion, and other factors. As a result, although they are an essential component of India’s environmental system, the country is more severely affected by their harmful consequences because the country mostly experiences non-monsoonal precipitation.

Western Disturbances in India Impact

In North-West India, Western Disturbances are to blame for the majority of the winter and pre-monsoon rainfall. Cloudy skies, warmer nighttime temperatures, and unusual rain are frequently linked to these phenomena. Nearly 5–10% of India’s annual rainfall is thought to be a result of Western Disturbances.

In the winter, western winds in the Indian subcontinent deliver moderate to heavy rain to low-lying areas and heavy snow to mountainous regions. India is a rain-dependent nation, and while the southwest monsoon covers the majority of the country, it doesn’t bring much rain to some regions of northern India. During the winter season from November to March, these areas are dependent on snow and rain from western disturbances.

Winter precipitation is very important for agriculture, especially for rabi crops like wheat, one of the most significant crops in India. After winter, they begin to deteriorate. They travel over North India in the spring months of April and May, and in some areas of northwest India, they occasionally assist in the monsoon’s activation.

Western disturbances can occasionally bring about dense cloud cover and significant precipitation during the monsoon season. In north India, weak western disturbances are linked to water shortages and crop failure. Residents, farmers, and governments can avoid many of the issues related to water scarcity by taking advantage of strong Western disturbances.

Western Disturbances Importance

The western disturbances influence the winter weather up to Patna (Bihar) and occasionally produce rainfall that is very good for the existing rabi crops (wheat, barley, mustard, gram, lentil, etc.).

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 to blame for the majority of the post-monsoon and winter precipitation. In agriculture, precipitation during the winter months is crucial, especially for rabi crops.

One of the most significant crops among them, wheat contributes to India’s ability to meet its food security needs. During the winter, four to five western disturbances typically occur. Every western disturbance causes a different variation in rainfall distribution and volume. Cloudy skies, warmer nighttime temperatures, and unexpected rain are typically indicators of Western Disturbances.

Other Indian Geography Topics

Seasons of India Mountains of India
Mangrove Forests in India Important Mountain Passes in India
Monsoon in India
Indus River System
Climate of India
Rivers of India
Tributaries of Ganga
National Parks in India
Important Dams in India
Wildlife Sanctuaries of India
Tiger Reserves in India
Northern Plains of India
Physiography of India
Important Lakes of India
Wetlands in India
Biodiversity in India
Natural Vegetation in India Earthquakes in India
Types of Soil in India
Ramsar Sites in India
Brahmaputra River System
Hydropower Plants in India
Nuclear Power Plants in India
Major Ports in India
Biosphere Reserves in India
Waterfalls in India

Other Fundamental Geography Topics

Solar System Types of Clouds
Structure of the Atmosphere Himalayan Ranges
Component of Environment
El Nino and La Nina
Coral Reef
Continental Drift Theory
Endogenic and Exogenic Forces
Indian Ocean Region
Pacific Ocean
Indian Ocean Dipole
Air Pollution
Environmental Impact Assessment
Tropical Cyclone
Types of Rocks


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Western Disturbances FAQs

What is meant by western disturbances?

Western Disturbance is the name of the extratropical storm that develops in the Mediterranean and provides abrupt winter rain to the northwest regions of the Indian subcontinent. It is a non-monsoonal precipitation pattern, and the westerlies are what make it happen.

What is the cause of western disturbances?

The Mediterranean region is where upheavals in the West begin. A high-pressure system consolidates over Ukraine and the surrounding area, causing cold air from the polar regions to move toward an area of somewhat warmer air with significant moisture.

Where does western disturbances occur in India?

Winter rains in Indian states like Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh are brought on by western disturbances.

How do the western disturbances travel across India?

Since the extratropical storm moves over the north due to changes in air temperature, its impacts start to diminish after winter in the northern latitudes is over.

How do the western disturbances’ currents progress?

In contrast to the southwest monsoon currents, which flow from east to west, the western disturbance currents in North India flow from west to east. In the end, this permits monsoon in India's northern areas.

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