M A I N   N E W S

Brace for below-normal monsoon
IMD says will update its forecast in June after rains set in
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

El Nino again
El Nino refers to the warmer-than-average sea surface temperature in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean
This condition occurs every 4-12 years and last impacted monsoon in 2009, leading to the worst drought in almost four decades
El Nino conditions continue to be neutral in the Pacific, but the probability of its occurrence is about 60%

New Delhi, April 24
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Thursday said the monsoon was expected to be below-normal this year, confirming earlier ominous warnings by international agencies about the possibility of an EL Nino event hitting the crucial seasonal rains.

Seasonal rainfall is expected to be 95 per cent of the long-term average, with a margin for error of plus or minus five per cent, according to the IMD. Average or normal rainfall is defined as between 96 per cent and 104 per cent of a 50-year average of 89 cm for the entire season.

Though ENSO (El Nino-Southern Oscillation) conditions in the equatorial Pacific continue to be neutral, sub-surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific have warmed to the levels generally observed prior to an El Nino event.

The forecast from a majority of the models also indicates a warming trend in sea surface temperatures over the equatorial Pacific reaching to El Nino level during the southwest monsoon season with a probability of around 60%. In other words, it means that though El Nino conditions continue to be neutral in the Pacific, probability of its occurrence is on the higher side (about 60 per cent).

This not good news for the country, more so for the new government that will have a problem on hand immediately after it takes over. The monsoon is vital for India as more than half of its farm lands are still rain-fed.

Inflation and price rise are normally associated with poor rains. Apart from influencing general sentiments among people and adversely affecting rain-fed regions, poor rains also have implications on the power situation and ground water levels in irrigated areas.

With a huge percentage of farmers and the country's economic interests depending upon rain in the four-month period spanning June, July, August and September, monsoon is crucial for India.

Even though international agencies had repeatedly raised a red flag drawing attention to the El Nino factor, the IMD had debunked the forecasts, calling them western efforts to destabilise India’s commodities and stock markets. But its first official forecast is in line with most international agencies that have been predicting mostly below-average rains in most of South Asia, including India.

The last time India faced a drought with rainfall below the normal range was in 2009 and before that in 2004 and 2002 with El Nino projected as the bad guy each time. The past four years have been good, with India witnessing record food production. Last year, India experienced 106 per cent rains, resulting in a record 262 million tonnes of grain.





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