M A I N   N E W S

Normal monsoon expected this year
IMD foresees increased farm output
Vibha Sharma/TNS

New Delhi, April 19
The Indian Meteorological Department today predicted “normal rains” for the 2011 monsoon, strengthening the prospects of a good agricultural production.

Earth Sciences Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said the seasonal rainfall for the country as a whole was likely to be normal, which is 96 to 104 per cent of the long period average. “There is very low probability for season's rainfall to be deficient, which is below 90 per cent, or excess, which is above 110 per cent. Quantitatively, monsoon season rainfall is likely to be 98 percent of the long period average,” he said. The country’s most-awaited weather phenomenon is also expected to be on time. The IMD will update the forecast in June, when a clearer picture would emerge.

Monsoon rains are extremely critical for the country’s billion plus population, majority of which is dependent, directly or indirectly, on agriculture. While the trillion-dollar economy is self-sufficient in staples like wheat and rice for its 1.21 billion population, a failed monsoon can push the country into international markets as buyer, like it did in 2009, when India had to import sugar, sending prices to record high.

Incidentally, in 2009, the IMD predicted “normal” rains in its initial forecast. A normal monsoon is when the country as a whole receives rainfall between 96-104 per cent of a 50-year average of 89 cm during the four-month rainy season. Even though the IMD is not admitting it but with some key monsoon parameters not quite so favourable at this point in time, there are apprehensions that northwestern parts of the country, including Punjab and Haryana, may end up with some amount of deficiency this year.

IMD chief Ajit Tyagi explains that the evolution of conditions during the monsoon is also very important. “Let us see how it (monsoon) unfolds,” he said, in response to a direct question on rainfall prospects in the grain bowl of the country. Notably, at the recent South Asian Climate Outlook Forum (SASCOF-2), meteorologists admitted that forecasts from different climate models indicated large uncertainty, partly because the La Niña conditions were expected to weaken to a neutral state over the course of the monsoon season.

The SASCOF outlook clearly indicated slightly enhanced likelihood for below normal rainfall conditions over northwestern parts and some northeastern parts of South Asia and above normal rainfall over the southern parts of South Asia, including the islands. There is a strong probability for the present La Niña conditions to weaken further to reach El Niño - Southern Oscillation (ENSO) neutral conditions.

Historically speaking, it has happened twice before (1964 and 1971 turned out to be deficit years). The IMD, however, says that even if La the Niña conditions weaken, as expected, they may just impact the later part of the season. A relatively cooler March and April is another bad omen for a good monsoon, but Tyagi insists that temperature radiant will build up by May-June. “Overall rainfall will remain unaffected,” he says.

Additional problem is of snow-cover area over the Northern Hemisphere, which was above-normal between October 2010 and March 2011. This may result in reduced land-sea heat contrast in the Asian monsoon region and thus slightly weaken the monsoon circulation. Associated with the prevailing weak to moderate La Niña conditions, cold sea surface temperatures have been observed in the equatorial east and Central Indian Ocean and positive anomalies along the west coast of Australia. 

No cruel summer: New Delhi: Dreading the coming summer? Well, your fears of scorching heat may prove to be misplaced. The weatherman on Tuesday said the season is expected to be less hot than last year. “The summer this year will be normal or below normal and won't be as hot as last year,” IMD chief AK Tyagi told reporters here. 

Monsoon and its political implications

Significant political implications of the monsoon, in a country where majority of population lives in rural communities, are well recognised. The Congress is fighting key Assembly elections and an unfavourable forecast has the potential to impact the rural voters’ confidence. A good rain reduces demand for diesel, used to pump water from wells for irrigation, while fewer showers lead to farmers demanding higher rates for their produce, loans and waiver of electricity bills.





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