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IMD and private forecasters have predicted normal rainfall this year, but meteorologists are watching out to see how this little-known climatic phenomenon plays out

By Ratnadeep Choudhary

Both the Indian Meteorological Department and the private forecaster Skymet have confirmed that the disruptive El Niño won’t impact the Indian monsoon this year. “The distribution of rainfall is expected to be good… the country will receive 96 per cent of Long Period Average,” IMD chief KJ Ramesh said. However, it may be too early to celebrate. The Indian Ocean Dipole, a little-known weather phenomenon, may yet affect the farmer’s sole saviour. Predictions made by the IMD have often been far from accurate over the years.

Nicknamed the Christ Child, El Niño is an unusual warm current in the Pacific Ocean. It is a result of the oscillation of the ocean-atmosphere in the tropical Pacific. During El-Niño, the cold trade winds are replaced by warm winds. It disrupts climatic conditions in various parts of the world and is known to have an adverse impact on the Indian monsoon as well.

Indian Ocean Dipole is the phenomenon involving different temperatures along the western and eastern sides of the Indian Ocean at Arabian Sea and near Indonesia. A positive IOD generally has a favourable impact on the monsoon and it also reverses the impact of El Niño.

IMD has predicted that the impact of IOD seems neutral this monsoon. The department is closely monitoring sea surface conditions and would release its next forecast early June.

Scientifically, summer monsoon rainfall and its correlation with IOD are not conclusively proven. However, statistical data of IMD shows that in four of the 15 El Niño years, IOD was positive. In three of these (positive-IOD) years, rainfall was normal—96-104 percent of the predicted rainfall.

As the Indian economy is an agriculture-driven economy which depends on monsoon rainfall, a normal monsoon means that food prices remain under check. A total of 16 percent of the Indian GDP is dependent on monsoon and 50 percent of India’s 1.2 billion strong population is involved in agricultural production.

But a bad monsoon would affect other sectors as well. Industries such as fertilizer, food processing and agro-machinery have a considerable stake in a good monsoon. A positive monsoon would mean cut in interest rates by the RBI and the negative impact could lead to a rise in the overall inflation. Also, if the GST bill is passed by the parliament in the monsoon session, it would complement a good monsoon and would contribute to the growth of the GDP of the country.

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