April 04, 2014

El Nino to coincide with monsoon: India Meteorological Department's Pune arm warns of poor rains

El Nino to coincide with monsoon: India Meteorological Department's Pune arm warns of poor rains 
PUNE: India should brace for a weak monsoon season as El Nino conditions are likely to develop, but before rains dry up, the ongoing wet spell will continue until June, weather scientists have forecast, casting a shadow on the rabi harvest and the planting of summer crops such as paddy 

This is not the official monsoon forecast of India Meteorological Department (IMD), but the outlook prepared by the Pune-based Regional Climate Centre, which is a part of IMD. Forecasters from Australia China, Korea and the US have issued El Nino warnings, but so far the Indian weather office has rubbished the concerns as western propaganda to rattle Indian markets. 

Monsoon outlook is indeed sensitive for the economy and the market. Although the country has sufficient stock of foodgrain, a negative monsoon adversely affects the entire economy. In 2009, when an El Nino severely disrupted monsoon rains, India saw a sudden burst of food inflation, which continued relentlessly for years, forcing the Reserve Bank of India to keep interest rates high despite persistent protests by industry. Weak rainfall in the country in 2009 raised global sugar prices to the highest in decades, and this year the price of the sweetener in India, the world's second-largest producer, is already rising. 

The forecast said weak El Nino conditions, which often disrupt rainfall in India, may develop by the middle of the year, coinciding with the June-September monsoon. "During the season April to June, wetter-than-normal conditions are likely over most parts of India, Afghanistan, north Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. However, during the season May to July, normal to drierthan-normal conditions are likely over most parts of South Asia except extreme north India, adjoining north Pakistan and  north Afghanistan," it said. 

"On the monthly scale, most of the countries of the region are likely to experience normal to wetter-than-normal conditions during the first three months and drier-than-normal conditions in July," it said. 

The Regional Climate Centre has suffixed a caveat to its forecast: "The long range forecasts presented here are currently experimental and are produced using techniques that have not been validated. The content is only for general information and its use is not intended to address particular requirements," it said. 
The Australian Weather Office, widely respected for its forecasts, said the outlook for El Nino had increased. "The El Nino-Southern Oscillation ( ENSO) remains neutral; however, the chance of an El Nino occurring later in 2014 has increased. Climate models indicate the Pacific is likely to warm in coming months, with ocean surface temperatures reaching El Nino thresholds during the southern hemisphere winter," it said in its weekly tropical climate update on Tuesday
North India has seen unusually high winter rainfall in 2014. This has damaged apple and almond orchards and raised concerns about the wheat harvest that gathers momentum in April. IMD's latest forecast says more rains are likely. "Rain/thundershowers would occur at many places over Jammu & Kashmir and at a few places over Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand from (April) 5th onwards," it said. 

Abinash Verma, director-general, Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), said, "El Nino will not affect Indian sugar production in 2014-15 significantly as most of the sugarcane is in irrigated areas. But if the reservoirs are not filled up then it will impact the sugarcane production in 2015-16 season. However, ISMA would like to watch the rainfall from the retreating monsoon also as it affects the yield and sucrose formation." 


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