Monday, July 27, 2009
The latest Monsoon low dissipated over the northern Arabian Sea at the weekend after crossing Sindh (Pakistan) and Gujarat (India) with some flooding outbursts. My return was too late to gather much data on these. I do know that Chhor, Pakistan, got a thorough soaking. What is more, another extreme fall of rain hit seaside Kathiawar Peninsula, Gujarat state. This would be Veraval, where at least another 35 cm fell within one 24-hour stretch ended on Friday.
We do have a record for weather data out of Veraval, although there are some flaws. Still, it seems that seasonal rainfall has reached at least 150 cm since the start of June. I believe that this would be about two-times the normal yearly rainfall. All within about five weeks.
Seasonal rainfall to date has now exceeded normal amount (the slow start notwithstanding) in Mumbai, Pune, Rajkot, Indore, Nagpur, Bhopal and even Bikaner. All are in central and western/northwestern India. Also Karachi and, most likely, a good deal of southern and eastern Sindh.
Rainfall on the Subcontinent is most deficient from northern Pakistan through northern and eastern India to Bangladesh and the nearby northeast of India. Some amounts are at only half of normal amount. Also very short on rain, as a percent of normal, is the southeast of India, which is normally a "rain shadow" during the SW Monsoon. Thus, in times of amount, the shortfall is low.
--A to the weather setting on the Subcontinent, the key shifts taking place at the start of the week are 1) the dissipation of last week`s Monsoon low over the Arabian Sea and 2) the "flattening" of high pressure aloft over southern central Asia. Then, too, there is the loss of the well-marked easterly jet stream that held sway over the Subcontinent most of last week. In short, it would seem to be the makings of "Break Monsoon", a time with more "selective" heavier falls of rain mingled with wide areas having low rainfall.
What I see of numerical forecast models leads me to foresee "break monsoon" through the end of this week, at least. Yes, there will be areas of helpful rain, but coverage will be spottier and somewhat different versus the week gone by.
One spot getting long-awaited downpours even as I write is Delhi/New Delhi. At the Safdarjang Airport, rainfall was 7 cm within a few hours -- and still counting.
Latest satellite pic shows 5pm, 27-Jul-09::
As U.P government declares most of State as Drought Hit, Today there's Heavy rain activity over Uttar Pradesh.
And more rain predicted for Tonight and thru tomorrow(28-Jul-09).
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India Meteorological Department (IMD) has still not commented on the status of the monsoon, which is anything but active or vigorous except in the north-east.
It is not a particularly strong monsoon now, a source in the Government said. Neither is it depressingly weak as is evident from the heavy rains along the Himalayan foothills and the north-east, which have been in deficit.
DIPS IN BAY
On Sunday, the axis of the seasonal monsoon trough passed through Amritsar, Ambala, Pilibhit, Raxaul, Malda, Krishnanagar and southeastwards into east-central Bay of Bengal.
The western end of the monsoon trough has shifted north of the normal, indicating a weak phase. And the westerly winds are blowing straight into the plains of north India.
But the southern end of the trough still dips into the Bay of Bengal pointing to some incipient activity, but not quite strong enough to support any significant weather over central or peninsular India.
The offshore trough along the west coast has shrunk in size and is lately discernible from the Maharashtra coast to the Karnataka coast, the IMD update said.
The monsoon has been active in Assam, Meghalaya, sub-Himalayan West Bengal, Sikkim and Gujarat during the last 24 hours ending Sunday morning.
But it was subdued over Haryana, Punjab, east Madhya Pradesh, Marathwada, Vidarbha, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, interior Karnataka and Kerala.
TO STAY WEAK
Satellite pictures on Sunday showed convective clouds over central and adjoining north-west Bay of Bengal, parts of south-east Bay of Bengal, north Andaman Sea, sub-Himalayan West Bengal, Sikkim and north-east India.
An IMD outlook for the next four to five days too said that subdued monsoon conditions are likely over central and peninsular India.
Meteorologists are now looking forward to the expected arrival of a westerly trough around mid-week , which could entrench 'weak monsoon' conditions over central and peninsular India.
The eastward (towards north-west and central India) shifting of the high-pressure region in the mid-high levels over the Middle-East would too be watched for its adverse impact on the Indian monsoon.
Model forecasts show this 'ridge' with suppressed rainfall regime poking its 'nose' from just across the border over Pakistan by August 4, but sulking at the sight of a building buzz in the Bay of Bengal.
It could not be confirmed if this likely 'low' would be strong enough to revive monsoon rains over the west coast and central India. Last week's forecasts had signalled the formation of a weak 'low' in the Bay by this time.
BUSY IN NORTH-EAST
Meanwhile, the IMD has forecast fairly widespread to widespread rainfall activity with isolated heavy to very heavy rainfall over the north-eastern states during the next four days.
Fairly widespread rainfall activity is also likely along the foothills of Himalaya and parts of plains of north-west India during this period.
A warning for the next two days said that heavy to very heavy rainfall is likely at isolated places over West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh.
Isolated heavy rainfall has been forecast over Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Extended outlook for the three days until July 31 spoke about the possibility of fairly widespread to widespread rainfall activity with isolated heavy falls over the north-eastern States.
An unusually dry start to India's monsoon season is threatening to hurt agricultural output in an economy still hugely dependent on rural areas for growth.
This file picture taken on May 14, 2009 shows an Indian farmer and his son walking over their parched paddy field on the outskirts of Agartala. (Parthajit Datta/AFP/Getty Images)
A below normal crop yield may weigh on a nascent economic recovery and push up food prices, straining the government's budget further and complicating the central bank's efforts to revive the economy without letting inflation get out of hand.
After the driest June in 83 years, four of India's 28 provinces have declared drought. Rainfall between June 1 and July 22 was 19% below normal, with the northern and northwestern regions worst hit.
The Meteorological Department forecasts rainfall in the June-September wet season at 93% of the long-term average, which is not an unusually large deviation. But the distribution so far has been extremely uneven, with some areas flooded while others have been parched.
The June-September monsoon is critical for summer-sown crops, including oilseeds, rice, and sugarcane, as 60% of fields are rain fed. If rainfall remains sporadic through September, winter crop yields, such as wheat, could also be hurt, analysts said.
This is a challenge to a country where two thirds of the 1.1 billion population live in villages and agriculture accounts for around 18% of gross domestic product. Rural demand accounts for more than half of domestic consumption so any hit to farmers' incomes would hurt demand for everything from fuel and motorcycles to soap and gold, with knock-on effects on the broader economy.
The government is alert to the risks but hasn't sounded the alarm yet. That may reflect confidence that various measures it's taken to spur economic growth in rural areas will help offset some of the shock from a weak crop.
"It's premature to draw any doomsday conclusion and it's better to wait to check if rains revive," said Arvind Virmani, chief economic adviser to the federal Finance Ministry.
But economists are starting to pencil in downside risks to their forecasts for the economy, which has remained one of the most resilient in Asia to the global credit crisis thanks to its relatively small dependence on exports.
Robust rural demand has helped cushion the blow from the global downturn, with India's economic expansion outpacing those of all its regional peers except China. Growth slowed to 6.7% in the year ended March 31 from 9% a year earlier. The government forecasts an expansion between 6.25% and 7.75% for the current year but a poor harvest could cast that projection into doubt.
"If overall rainfall deficiency falls to 20%-25%, India's gross domestic product growth could be pared to sub-5% this fiscal year," said Mridul Saggar, chief economist at Kotak Securities.
It's not clear if the dry weather so far portends more of the same. Heavy rains last Tuesday lashed the northern province of Punjab, among India's top five rice producing provinces, ending its dry spell. Last year's monsoon revived later in the season, helping farm sector output grow 1.6%.
The government forecast a 4% expansion in farm production when it unveiled its budget last month, but Morgan Stanley said low rainfall could limit growth to between 1.5% and 2%.
A slump in the agricultural sector would put pressure on the government to respond with support measures, even as it already struggles with a fiscal deficit that is estimated to swell to a record 6.8% of GDP this fiscal year.
"The government can't look away from the problem and despite the tight fiscal situation, it will try to incentivize farmers, which may swell its subsidy bill," said Shubhada Rao, Chief Economist at Yes Bank.
The Specter Of Higher Prices
A bigger hazard could be higher inflation.
The wholesale price index - the main gauge of inflation - fell 1.17% in the week to July 11 from a year earlier, a sixth straight week of declines. But economists say inflation will likely reappear in September, as elevated food prices remain sticky and a recent fuel price hike ripples through the economy.
The Reserve Bank of India expects inflation at 4% by the end of this fiscal year on March 31. Jahangir Aziz, chief India economist at JP Morgan Chase, said inflation could rise by two-to-three percentage points over that baseline forecast if the monsoon rains don't pick up.
India doesn't have a large stock of oilseeds and may have to resort to imports which may cost up to 0.4% of GDP, he said.
Scarce rains have forced some farmers to switch from rice to other crops, such as coarse cereals that can survive with less water. India's summer-sown rice acreage fell about 21% between June 1-July 17 to 11.5 million hectares from a year earlier.
Farm Minister Sharad Pawar Friday told Parliament he has banned exports of wheat and non-premium rice for over a year because of the poor monsoon.
The government may also raise procurement prices for some summer sown crops such as rice by 500 rupees per metric ton to encourage more sowing, a senior farm ministry official said.
Prices of sugar and tea have risen 30%, pulses 17%, and cereals 12% from year ago levels, said Citigroup's Rohini Malkani adding that the government may be able to head off a serious spike in food prices, given high stocks of rice and wheat from previous bumper crops and adequate foreign exchange reserves for imports.
Government-to-government grain exports from India will halt following a predicted decline in farm outputs for this year. Poor monsoon rains have meant yields may be lower than hoped.
The Indian government says they will attempt to build their own reserves to ensure food security for the nation.
"We export some 2 million tons of wheat through diplomatic channels. We will stop even that. The situation may improve but we do not want to take any risks when the question of food security of our own country is involved," said India's Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar