The timely arrival of monsoon rains over southern and western India has cheered policymakers and farmers alike because the seasonal downpours largely determine farm output. But doubts are now surfacing over whether the prediction of normal rains would hold for the crucial sowing month of July… Below normal rains during the important sowing period could affect crop yields…
The southwest monsoon reached India’s mainland through the southern State of Kerala and has progressed well to cover most parts of south India. It is expected to advance further over western India in the next week. But rising temperatures over the eastern part of the Indian Ocean could prove to be a spoiler in July by sapping moisture away from the monsoon clouds over the subcontinent, says Jatin Singh, chief executive officer at Skymet, an India-based private weather forecasting agency.
Sowing of most summer season crops, including rice, oilseeds, lentils and cotton, start in full swing only a month after the monsoon enters India, normally in the first week of June. Below normal rains during the important sowing period could affect crop yields.
“The regions that are more susceptible to this uneven distribution of rainfall are northern India and parts of eastern and southern regions,” Mr. Singh said.
The Hindu Business Line, a newspaper, quoted Swadhin Behera, a scientist at the Tokyo-based Research Institute for Global Change, as making a similar case for a heating effect over the Indian Ocean drawing away the monsoon rains.
If these predictions turns out to be true, it could add to woes for farmers who suffered last year because of late arrival of rains over a quarter of the country. Western and southern parts of India are still experiencing the lingering effects of a drought.
The seasonal rains arrived late last year as an El Nino weather pattern that heats up the Pacific Ocean region drained away water from monsoon clouds in June and July, but later picked up in August and September as the weather phenomenon faded away.
“The warming of the Indian Ocean could be like a small El Nino this year,” said Mr. Singh. However, India’s State-run weather department brushed aside any concerns.
“There may not be much impact,” said D. Sivananda Pai, head of India Meteorological Department’s long-range forecast. The picture will be clearer when the weather department will release its month-wise forecast shortly.
– and Biman Mukherji