Rain shocks: On the monsoon in 2024

Published On: April 19, 2024 07:39 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

India’s farmers must account for a stronger monsoon while sowing

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast a bountiful monsoon. Rainfall from June-September is expected to be 6% more than the 87 cm, which is considered to be the average rainfall the country receives during these months. 

This is a fairly bold forecast by the agency that, typically in its April forecast, avoids suggesting either surplus or deficit rain. Given that temperatures in many southern States are soaring and stoking heatwaves, the anticipation of bountiful rainfall might sound like welcome news. 

There is however a dark cloud to this silver lining. The IMD’s climate models suggest a 30% chance of “excess” rains — defined as more than 10% of what is usual. By comparison, its expectation of “above normal” rains is 31%, defined as between 5%-10% of what is normal. The slim difference suggests that excessive rains are as likely as merely ‘above normal’ showers. 

Most of these rains are expected in the second half of the monsoon, or August and September. The IMD’s models forecast for this are premised on the development of a La Niña, or a converse of the El Niño (which more often than not results in a decrease in monsoon rainfall). The La Niña is also expected to be aided by a positive Indian Ocean Dipole, characterized by a cooler than normal Indian Ocean in the east as compared to the west, that helps bring rain to several States in southern India. 

The IMD is silent on the quantity of rains in June and July but expects “neutral conditions” (neither El Niño, nor La Niña) to be prevalent that time. Two arid monsoon months and torrential rains in the last two may be fine for agriculture but is likely to result in extreme floods and — as has been observed in the past — immense damage to lives, livelihoods and infrastructure.

The 2018 floods in Kerala continue to be a reminder of how vulnerable India is to natural disasters. While an update to the forecast is expected around the end of May, the IMD’s current signal must be urgently heeded. States must, at the soonest, draw up emergency plans from their disaster-management modules to bolster infrastructure, prepare evacuation plans, conduct audits of the structural stability of dams and their distress-signalling network and ensure that broader early-warning networks are in place. 

Also, India’s farmers, a majority of whom continue to be dependent on rain-fed agriculture, must also be informed of the possibility of a stronger, second half of the monsoon and incorporate these in their sowing operations.

Source: The Hindu (India)



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