ENVIS Centre, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India

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El Nino ghost haunts India (April)

India Today, Delhi, Friday 25th April 2014 The scourge of El Nino could be back and it could affect India's agricultural output, leading to a spike in inflation. On Thursday, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicted that the country could get below-normal rainfall this year if El Nino affects the weather pattern. Monsoon rainfall is likely to be 95 per cent of the normal with a margin of plus- minus five per cent error, the weather department said. El Nino is likely to impact rainfall in a major way this year, with the weather department forecasting around 60 per cent probability for the phenomenon that is usually linked to droughts in India.


"The sub-surface temperatures in the Tropical Pacific have warmed to the levels generally observed prior to an El Nino event. Latest forecast from a majority of the models also indicate a warming trend in the sea- surface temperatures over the Equatorial Pacific reaching to El Nino level during the southwest monsoon season," the IMD said in a statement. Though the average climatic probability of belownormal rainfall as seen over the past 100 years is 17 per cent, the probability has shot up to 33 per cent this year.


According to the IMD, the monsoon is deficient if it falls below 90 per cent. Though its climatological probability as seen over the period 1951- 2000 is 16 per cent, the department has forecast a 23 per cent probability for deficient rainfall this year. Asked about the possible impact of El Nino on this year's monsoon, IMD director B. P. Yadav said: " Though there is a 60 per cent probability of El Nino, there are other factors which contribute to a good monsoon and those indicators have been factored in while coming out with this forecast." He added: " As El Nino is known to have a strong influence on the Indian monsoon, we are carefully monitoring the sea- surface conditions over the Pacific and Indian Oceans."


The monsoon is vital for India as half of its agricultural land lacks irrigation. The long period average seasonal rainfall during the period 1951- 2000 has been 89 cm. The normal monsoon, according to IMD, is 96- 104 per cent. India witnessed below- normal rainfall and droughts in 2002, 2004 and 2009. In each of these years, the El Nino affected the monsoon. A strong El Nino can cause droughts in India, Southeast Asia and Australia and heavy rainfall in other parts of the world like the US and Brazil. In 2013, India's monsoon was above average with 106 per cent rainfall, resulting in record grain production of 262 million tonnes. The IMD and Earth System Science Organisation will issue a second stage forecast in June. The departments will issue separate forecasts for the monthly rainfall in July and August across the country as well as a prediction for seasonal rainfall during June- September in the four geographical regions of the country.


India Today, Delhi, Friday 25th April 2014