Thursday, August 13, 2009

India Monsoon Rains 56% Below Average in the Week Ended Aug. 12

India's monsoon season, which brings 82 percent of the country's annual rainfall, was 56 percent less than average in the week ended Aug. 12, a weather official said.

The nation received 27.4 millimeters of rain in the period, compared with an average 62.7 millimeters, S. Kaur, a director at India Meteorological Department, said from New Delhi. As many as 31 of 36 weather divisions got deficient or scanty rains.

The rain deficit in the season started June 1 widened to 29 percent from 25 percent in the previous week, she said.

A moderate crop failure can have severe economic and societal impacts.

Met dept predicts early withdrawal of monsoon

In a not so pleasant development, the Metrological department on Thursday predicted the early withdrawal of south-west monsoon in mid-September, which is likely to put more pressure on the Centre to ensure food security.

According to reports, the MET, after its assessment, said that the early withdrawal of south-west monsoon can be due to the strong El Nino events, which are mainly responsible for severe drought in Africa, India and Australia.

Considering the bad spell of monsoon in various parts of the country, the MET officials have said that the Year 2009 can be classified as a "typical drought year".

The south-west monsoon normally withdraws by the end of September, but going by the MET department's prediction it is likely to withdraw in early or mid September.

The delayed and deficient monsoon has severely affected the country's economy as nearly one-fifth of the India's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) comes from the agriculture sector.

In view of this, even a moderate crop failure can have severe economic and societal impacts.

The bad spell of monsoon has largely damaged the Rabi crops and the prices of essential commodities have sky-rocketed.

As many as 161 districts across India have been declared drought hit and the Centre has promised more assistance to the affected states to effectively deal with the situation.

The MET's prediction have come hours after the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has constituted a crisis team of Group of Ministers to take stock of the drought situation.

The main task of this crisis team will be to minimise the damaging impact of drought on food prices and to improve the condition of farmers most-affected by it

So far, As many as 161 districts out of over 600 have been declared as hit by drought.
Drought: Govt puts up brave face ..
#Chennai's water problem is slowly and steadily moving into DISASTER phase. If North-east monsoon for Chennai FAILS..??

Satellites Unlock Secret To Northern India's Vanishing Water

Using satellite data, UC Irvine and NASA hydrologists have found that groundwater beneath northern India has been receding by as much as 1 foot per year over the past decade - and they believe human consumption is almost entirely to blame.

More than 109 cubic kilometers (26 cubic miles) of groundwater disappeared from the region's aquifers between 2002 and 2008 - double the capacity of India's largest surface-water reservoir, the Upper Wainganga, and triple that of Lake Mead, the largest manmade reservoir in the U.S.

People are pumping northern India's underground water, mostly to irrigate cropland, faster than natural processes can replenish it, said Jay Famiglietti and Isabella Velicogna, UCI Earth system scientists, and Matt Rodell of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

"If measures are not soon taken to ensure sustainable groundwater usage, consequences for the 114 million residents of the region may include a collapse of agricultural output, severe shortages of potable water, conflict and suffering," said Rodell, lead author of the study and former doctoral student of Famiglietti's at the University of Texas at Austin.

Study results will be published online Aug. 12 in the journal Nature.

Groundwater comes from the percolation of precipitation and other surface waters down through Earth's soil and rock, accumulating in aquifers - cavities and layers of porous rock, gravel, sand or clay . In some subterranean reservoirs, the water may be thousands to millions of years old; in others, water levels decline and rise again naturally each year.

Groundwater levels do not respond to changes in weather as rapidly as lakes, streams and rivers do. So when groundwater is pumped for irrigation or other uses, restoration of original levels can take months or years.

"Groundwater mining - that is when withdrawals exceed replenishment rates - is a rapidly growing problem in many of the world's large aquifers," Famiglietti said. "Since groundwater provides nearly 80 percent of the water required for irrigated agriculture, diminishing groundwater reserves pose a serious threat to global food security."

Data provided by India's Ministry of Water Resources had suggested that groundwater use across the nation was exceeding natural replenishment, but the regional rate of depletion had been unknown.

In the new study, the hydrologists analyzed six years of monthly data for northern India from twin satellites called GRACE - NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment - to produce a chronology of underground water storage changes.

GRACE detects differences in gravity brought about by fluctuations in water mass, including water below the Earth's surface. As the satellites orbit 300 miles above Earth, their positions change - relative to each other - in response to variations in the pull of gravity. They fly about 137 miles apart, and microwave ranging systems measure every microscopic variance in the distance between the two.

"With GRACE, we can monitor water storage changes everywhere in the world from our desk," said Velicogna, also with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "The satellites allow us to observe how water storage evolves from one month to the next in critical areas of the world."

Groundwater loss in northern India is particularly alarming because there were no unusual trends in rainfall - in fact, it was slightly above normal during the study period. The researchers also examined data on soil moisture, lake and surface reservoir storage, vegetation and glaciers in the nearby Himalayas to confirm that the apparent groundwater trend was real. The only influence they couldn't rule out was human.

"For the first time, we can observe water use on land with no additional ground-based data collection," Famiglietti said. "This is critical because in many developing countries, where hydrological data are both sparse and hard to access, space-based methods provide perhaps the only opportunity to assess changes in freshwater availability across large regions."

India Hopes for Rain, and an Accurate Forecast

The India Meteorological Department has a spotty record in predicting the all-important monsoon rains. It is up to H.R. Hatwar, a slight, gray-haired man who sits behind a large desk with maps and charts scattered around his computer, to try to improve the forecasts that India's 600 million farmers rely on to plan their crops.

"No prediction is 100% accurate anywhere in the world," he says, promising the 130-year-old institution is "doing all it can to improve its overall forecast."

This year, the department predicted near-normal rainfall; it later adjusted expectations to below normal, and on Monday, more than halfway into a June-September monsoon season that has been so dry that five states have declared drought, India's official weather forecaster said it expected monsoon-season rainfall to be "deficient."

Peter Webster, a professor at the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, says India would give farmers a better sense of when they need to sow their crops if the government dropped its focus on the monsoon's arrival date and the average national rainfall and instead put its efforts into 20-day forecasts.

In India, it's up to the state or central governments to declare a drought, because it entails contingency planning and relief aid. Mr. Webster says India's national drought declaration in 2002 could have been prevented had the department provided timely 20-day forecasts. "If they had planted in the active period their plants would have survived," he says.

Mr. Hatwar, who is in charge of research at the India Meteorological Department, says he is developing 20-day forecasts and hopes to begin issuing them in a year or two. Such extended-range forecasts require advanced computing power that the department is only beginning to put in place, he says. For now, it relies on insufficient data and outdated equipment that requires measurements be taken manually.

It's hard to overstate the importance of the monsoon to India and the national obsession about exactly when it will make landfall (always in the southern state of Kerala, almost always in early June). Agriculture makes up nearly 18% of national gross domestic product, according to Morgan Stanley. Most farmers, without the benefit of irrigation, have just the annual June-to-September rains to water their fields.

A weak rainfall can hurt crop output, drinking-water supply, power generation and consumer demand -- and add another obstacle to government efforts to improve the rural economy as a key to sustained GDP growth.

Citigroup economist Rohini Malkani estimates that an insufficient monsoon could shave close to two percentage points off annual growth.

Almost 80% of the country is under the threat of drought, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said this week.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Tuesday he's still optimistic the economy can grow at the earlier estimate of over 6% in the fiscal year ending March 2010. "There is no point in pressing the panic button. This country has the capability of handling a drought situation," he said.

India's Ministry of Earth Sciences recently approved $620 million to be spent over five years to modernize and upgrade weather technology.

With the additional funding, Mr. Hatwar says his department plans to set up 1,000 automatic weather stations -- there are now 125. He says it will also have another 2,000 stations to measure precipitation. The new devices, which relay data by satellite, will help him make better predictions, he says.

Mr. Webster of Georgia Tech says the department will have to change its statistical model, too, complaining it has used the same one more than 50 years. "The basic problem of the India Meteorological Department is that they are mired in the past," he says. Mr. Hatwar defends his model, noting that it has accurately gauged the country's average rainfall for most years.

The British set up the department in 1875. In the early days, it gathered measurements of rainfall and temperature by telegram, the same way it sent flood and drought warnings. Now, information is relayed via satellite, and forecasts are delivered by radio and television.

A mathematician by training, Mr. Hatwar, 59 years old, stumbled into meteorology by accident. In 1972, he gave a paper on fluid mechanics at the prestigious Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. His mentor, impressed with his work, suggested he enroll in the institute's doctoral program, after which he joined the Meteorology Department in 1977, where he has remained.

Back then, he pored over weather charts made by hand from data received from Russian satellites.

Today, Mr. Hatwar studies computer-generated charts and satellite images of the monsoon. "A lot of progress has been made," he says.

India Wholesale Prices Fall the Most in More Than Three Decades ...
chennai - Looks like the 6pm window for Thunder cells has also vanished. So expect no rain. Going to be another WARM night.
Moderate earthquake jolts Chennai M 5.7 | aftershock to bug andaman quake | > 2 hrs ago | ppl felt it
RT @neatlysaid: Insufficient rains in India may cause sugar production there to be lower ...
South-south-west Kerala is getting some sharp showers. And even North-east Andhra is also into showers.
satellite shows:: Very heavy rains over Bihar, Almost full of U.P, Orissa, M.P, Rajasthan, Haryana and New delhi..
chennai - Now 3:57pm, skies are clearing up, Thunder cells might form again after 5:30pm becoz we have good Sea breeze from east-south-east.
Chennai - At around 2:45pm, saidapet area received some sprinkles from a malformed thunder cell.
#chennai - Recorded another high of 38.0°C (1:17pm)
PERSEIDS PICTURES: Meteor Shower Streaks Across the Sky ..
Latest satellite shows:: Very heavy rain over U.P, Uttrakhand, H.P and North Bengal..
Heavy to very heavy rainfall is likely over Uttrakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Sub-Himalayan West Bengal & Sikkim and Bihar
Latest satellite shows:: Very heavy rain over U.P, Uttaranchal, H.P and North Bengal..
RT @dhivya83: Dettol's SEM campaign, educates consumers about Swine Flu.
chennai - now 9 am, it's totally cleared up & getting hot.
chennai - Yesterday mid-morning witnessed the first August & September weather trend.
Chennai - Early morning cloud formations And a possible early mid-day shower are the trend for August & September.