Global scientists predict normal monsoon rainfall in India this year

Forecasters from US, Japan & Europe see a 50-60% chance for the El Niño phenomenon to emerge during summer, but don’t expect that to cause major worries for India.

Forecasters from US, Japan & Europe see a 50-60% chance for the El Niño phenomenon to emerge during summer, but don’t expect that to cause major worries for India.
NEW DELHI: Weather scientists from the US, Japan and Europe expect India’s monsoon rainfall to be normal this year, a welcome news for a country that lacks adequate irrigation facilities in its farms and is largely dependent on rains. The forecasters see a 50-60% chance for the rain-disrupting El Niño phenomenon to emerge during summer, but now don’t expect that to cause major worries for India’s monsoon that starts in June and lasts four months.

El Niño historically has been associated with reduced monsoon rainfall in India. In the past decade, 2002, 2004 and 2009 were drought years due to the emergence of El Niño. With over 60% of the farmland in India rain-fed, monsoon has a significant role to play. Farming accounts for about 18% of the nearly $1.8 trillion economy and supports the livelihood of millions.

A failed monsoon can seriously impact food prices and the economy. Land preparation and sowing of kharif, or summer-sown, crops — largely paddy, soyabean, cotton, pulses such as pigeon peas (arhar) and green gram (moong), coarse cereals like bajra and jowar – pick up with the onset of the monsoon.

According to US agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center, there is a 50%-60% chance of El Niño during summer. The Australian meteorological Bureau and the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts see a 50% chance.

Brian Morris, agricultural meteorologist at the US Department of Agriculture in Washington, said there may be a weak El Niño, which is not of much consequence unless there are adverse changes in another phenomenon called the Indian Ocean Dipole, which refers to changes in temperature differences between the western and eastern parts of the Indian Ocean.

“With a weak El Niño, as forecast, unless there is a corresponding negative Indian Ocean Dipole to couple with, I expect Indian monsoon rainfall to be roughly 95-100% of normal with no substantial delay in onset,” Morris told ET. Swadhin Behera of the climate variability prediction and application research group at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology said monsoon rains were on track to be normal. El Niño is unlikely, but the conditions should be watched for a few weeks, he added.

“El Niño is currently very weak, so we do not anticipate clear global impacts in the short-term,” said Michelle L’Heureux, a meteorologist with the USA Climate Prediction Center, part of NOAA.

But he said El Niño could weaken or grow. According to ECMWF, an independent intergovernmental organisation supported by 21 European Member states and 13 cooperating states, even though their models forecast a 50% probability of 2015 to be an El Niño year, given the uncertainty they don't see a one to one relation of this impacting Indian monsoon.

Tim Stockdale, lead on seasonal forecast and El Niño , said the rare event of two consecutive years of El Niño was seen in 1986-87. “In 2014, we saw only mild marginal El Niño conditions, which didn't remove the heat from the ocean, so potential for 2015 to be an El Niño is still there,” he said.

Forecasters say it is difficult to make a confident forecast at this stage. “I would personally feel models could not accurately predict monsoon performance on a consistent basis in the spring,” said Morris.
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