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Unprecedented drought in South India and recent water scarcityMishra, V.; Thirumalai, K.; Jain, S.; Aadhar, S.; Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona (IOP Publishing Ltd, 2021)Peninsular Indian agriculture and drinking water availability are critically reliant on seasonal winter rainfall occurring from October to December, associated with the northeastern monsoon (NEM). Over 2016-2018, moderate-to-exceptionally low NEM rainfall gave rise to severe drought conditions over much of southern India and exacerbated water scarcity. The magnitude and dynamics of this drought remain unexplored. Here, we quantify the severity of this event and explore causal mechanisms of drought conditions over South India. Our findings indicate that the 3-year cumulative rainfall totals of NEM rainfall during this event faced a deficit of more than 40% - the driest 3-year period in ∼150 years according to the observational record. We demonstrate that drought conditions linked to the NEM across South India are associated with cool phases in the equatorial Indian and Pacific Oceans. Future changes in these teleconnections will add to the challenges of drought prediction. © 2021 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd.