Monday, June 22, 2009

Wanted urgently: Rains in India

In a country where nearly two-thirds of agriculture depends on the rains and two-thirds of the population is dependent on agriculture, the delay in the monsoon's arrival has begun to worry the government.

A Union agriculture ministry official said they expect the monsoon to revive around June 25-26 and that the further action would be taken if doesn't happen. The prediction for the monsoon this year is 96% (plus or minus 5%) of normal rainfall.

The delay and the shortfall in rains - so far only 45% of the normal rains have arrived, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD) - is not seen as unusual by agriculturists. But they are surprised at the rise in the price of food. "What is in the market is last season's produce. Sowing has not begun fully for this season yet and the delay is not so unusual. There will be reason to worry only if the rains do not come or are insufficient in July," pointed agriculture and food policy expert Devinder Sharma.

Weather experts have warned that if the rainfall in July doesn't make up for the June deficit, then India may be headed for drought-like conditions. Typically, June accounts for only 16 per cent of the total rainfall in India from June to September. But if there is a 25% deficit by the end of July, then rains in the second half of the season (August and September) are unlikely to make up for the shortfall.

The IMD said 28 of India's 35 meteorological subdivisions have so far received deficient (more than 20 per cent below normal) or scanty (more than 60 per cent below normal) rainfall. Hot and dry weather has persisted across most parts of India. "During the past week, no fresh surge developed either in the Bay of Bengal or in the Arabian Sea which could lead to a further advance of the monsoon," the IMD said on Friday.

Although the monsoon set over Kerala a week earlier than normal on May 23, rainfall between June 1 and June 17 was 39.5mm instead of the normal of 72.5mm. The monsoon hasn't moved beyond the Kerala coast for two weeks now.

The IMD said the monsoon is expected to resume its progress around June 25. But it will be some time before it hits central India and even longer to arrive in northern India.

Status: The monsoon is late and what little rain has fallen is way below normal. The monsoon isnot expected for another week at least.

Impact: The non-arrival of the monsoon has jeopardised paddy cultivation and the government has advised farmers to delay cultivation by at least a fortnight. "But it is too early to worry about a drop in the production of foodgrains," said HS Sidhu, director of the state agriculture department.

Status: The monsoon set in a week early in southern Karnataka and on time in northern part of the state. But rainfall so far is less than normal.

Impact: Normal rainfall is expected in Karnataka and thus normal crop production. "According to the 16-year monsoon cycle, Karnataka is in the positive side and the annual rainfall is likely to be around 1140 mm,'' said MB Rajegowda, professor of agro-meteorology at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore.

West Bengal
Status: The monsoon arrived in the last week of May but its impact is yet to be felt with occasional and scattered rains witnessed in pockets of the state.

Impact: Experts do not foresee any major disaster so far. Kharif crops might be affected if the monsoons are delayed indefinitely. "The impact will be if the monsoon does not arrive by the last week of June," said Animesh Mitra, a former professor of Kalyani Agriculture University, Nadia district.

Status: The forecast for the monsoon's arrival is the last week of June. The Anand Agricultural University has said rainfall will be below normal.

Impact: Authorities say there is no cause for worry yet, but experts say farmers may have to change their crops this year. "Crops with shallow roots will benefit from drizzles and less rain. Farmers should start sowing only by June 29 when heavy rainfall is forecast," said AAU vice chancellor MC Varshneya.

Uttar Pradesh
Status: The monsoon arrives by June 18 and will be late by a week.

Impact: Scientists at the UP Agriculture Research Council believe the late monsoon will not affect rice plantation. But Brijesh Shukla, an agriculture expert, said past records show that late monsoons have hurt rice plantation.

Status: The western and northern parts received rains but the rest of the state has not.

Impact: The pre-monsoon showers provided relief to farmers, who are now worried about increase in squalls and dust storms, which is damaging their kharif crop.

Status: Cyclone Aila is being blamed for the monsoon's non-arrival.

Impact: Farmers are praying to the rain gods while the government remains hopeful. "If the monsoon breaks within a week, all we need is one good spell of rains," said state agriculture secretary UP Singh.

Original from::

El Nino may suppress monsoon

The developing El Nino, that refers to anomalous warming of the equatorial east Pacific, may work to suppress the Indian monsoon, according to a leading US forecast specialist.

"Our models do indicate that, says Dr Tony Barnston, Head-Forecasting at the International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society at Columbia University. Viewed from this standpoint, mid-July warming trends in the tropical Pacific could decide the fate of the Indian monsoon one way or the other.

Writing to Business Line, Dr Barnston said that the El Nino does not appear to be very strong, but rather weak to moderate. It does seem likely that it will continue to develop, however.

"The heat content beneath the surface in the tropical Pacific, while above average, is not outstandingly high. I am saying that I doubt the El Nino will grow rapidly during the coming one month. I suppose the monsoon forecast update to be issued by India at the end of June will indicate at least a slightly more pessimistic all-India monsoon outlook than the one from nearly a month ago, Dr Barnston said.

A passing Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) wave (west-to-east travelling, big weather maker in the upper levels) may have had some role in bringing the recent westerly low-level zonal wind anomalies to the western tropical Pacific. These westerly wind anomalies helped kick-start the currently borderline El Nino.


If so, the El Nino may not strengthen quickly over the coming few weeks since the MJO moves on and does its own thing. It is the sub-surface warmer-than-normal water volume that is providing the fuel for the event to develop further.

If the summer unfolds before the El Nino develops significantly, then India may not suffer a very bad monsoon because of the El Nino. But if the Nino3.4 (central Pacific) and Nino4 (western Pacific) regions reach anomaly levels of 1 deg Celsius and 0.6 deg Celsius, respectively, by mid-July, this could make for a more clearly deficient monsoon.

"I wish we could be surer about the path of this developing El Nino. Rather than thinking it may fizzle, or that it may become a very strong event, we see it currently as becoming a weak, a weak/moderate, or a moderate event.

"We also don't know the likely speed of development. It could stall for a few weeks at the borderline, or strengthen to a weak/moderate level (+1 deg Celsius in central Pacific) by the end of July.


The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD, mimicking 'El Nino' to within the confines of the Indian Ocean basin), another major monsoon determinant, is currently positive, and may remain that way throughout the summer.

But the IOD will probably not receive any kick from the El Nino until September, Dr Barnston said. El Nino does tend to favour initiation of a positive IOD event, which is monsoon-aiding.

It is in September that the Indian Ocean SST anomaly near Indonesia/Maritime continent tends to become negative, and that in the western Indian Ocean tends to become positive.

Before September, it could weaken slowly over the coming two months, but it is impossible to predict just how it will behave, Dr Barnston said.


Meanwhile, after a two-week-long hiatus, the western flank of the monsoon current advanced to cover more parts of central Arabian Sea, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh on Sunday.

The northern limit passed through Alibagh, Pune, Solapur, Hyderabad, Kalingapattinam, Paradip, Bankura and Gangtok. The eastern end had not advanced correspondingly, thanks to nil activity in the Bay of Bengal.

India Meteorological Department (IMD) said that conditions are favourable for further monsoon advance over more parts of Maharashtra including Mumbai, remaining parts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh during the next three days.

The monsoon arrival in Mumbai will now be the most delayed since 1999. The two recent years when it made delayed onsets were 2007 (on June 18) and 2005 (June 19). But this was as late as June 25 in 1905 and 1959.