Under the weather: Hey monsoon, where art thou?
On June 3, eleven of the 15 hottest places in the world recorded in the last 24 hours were from India.
The three-month long pre-monsoon season—March, April, and May—has come to an end. And guess what: Lord Indra doesn’t seem generous this year around.
India witnessed an overall 25 per cent deficiency. The South meteorological division suffered the most 47 per cent deficient rainfall; the Northwest India, Central India, East-Northeast India received a deficit of 30 per cent, 18 per cent, 14 per cent and 47 per cent.
Goa and Daman Diu didn’t see any rainfall in the pre monsoon season; several regions in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Lakshadweep saw large deficit by more than 80 per cent.
Overall, 57 per cent of the country faced deficit or large deficit.
"This has been the second driest pre-monsoon season in the last 65 years, with the lowest being recorded in 2012 when countrywide cumulative rainfall deficiency had mounted to 31 per cent," private weather forecaster Skymet Weather said.
But why is so significant? Well, for one, ploughing is done in the pre-monsoon season in states like Odisha and in parts of northeast India and the Western Ghats, it is critical for plantation of crops.
In forested regions of the Himalayas, pre-monsoon rainfall is necessary for apple plantation. Due to moisture, the pre-monsoon rainfall also helps in minimising forest fires.
The south-west monsoon is expected to hit Kerala on June 6th, with a model error of +/-4 days, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) had said. Normally, the summer monsoon arrives India on June 1st, with a standard deviation of seven days.
India’s weather office has forecasted a normal south-west monsoon—96 per cent of the 50-year long-term average (LPA) rainfall of 89cm.
Meanwhile, Skymet Weather has said that the onset of monsoon is going to be mild and the progress is expected to be sluggish in South—particularly in the drought prone states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, North Karnataka—and Central India.
This is because of the weak El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean, which corrupts the monsoon in India.
Wait, what’s El Niño—and why does it matter?
El Niño is a part of a routine climate pattern that occurs when sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean rise to above-normal levels for an extended period of time.
The pool of warm water moves to the east where it blocks the rising cold water, creating temperature abnormality. The warm ocean surface temperature triggers global weather changes associated with El Niño.
Apart from 2017 being kinda-sorta okay, India hasn’t really had a particularly productive monsoon since 2014, with weak El Niño events unfolding on either side of the strong 2015-16 El Niño.
Considering that the last post-monsoon season was deficient, this below normal monsoon prediction by Skymet seems scary. After all, the south-west monsoon, spanning from June to September, accounts for over 70 per cent of the country’s annual rainfall and irrigates over half of the crop land.
Meanwhile, India experienced severe heat wave conditions on June 3rd. The extent was so much so that eleven of the 15 hottest places in the world were recorded in India, weather monitoring website El Dorado said.
And this is likely to continue until the arrival of monsoon.
Here’s the bottom line: Agriculture accounts for around 15 per cent of the GDP, and is very much dependent on monsoon. If there’s a rainfall deficiency, it most likely will affect the farm production and inflation in general.