Drought less probable this year: Skymet

‘El Niño conditions petering out’

Published - February 25, 2019 10:05 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Chances of a normal monsoon were the highest.

Chances of a normal monsoon were the highest.

There’s unlikely to be a drought in 2019 as the El Nino — a climate phenomenon linked to drying up of the monsoon rains in India — is likely to peter out by the beginning of the monsoon, according to a forecast on Monday by private weather forecaster Skymet.

“The El Niño conditions were on the rise in the Pacific Ocean till December last. The temperatures are now declining, and the probability of El Nino is also falling. This will reduce to about 50% by the time monsoon arrives with a gradual decline thereafter as well. This means it is going to be a devolving El Nino year,” said Jatin Singh, managing director, Skymet Weather.

An El Nino refers to a half-to-one-degree rise in temperatures in the Central equatorial Pacific and is linked to a reduction in rains over key monsoon belts.

Earlier this month, the U.S. National Climate Centre issued a forecast that an El Nino had formed, was likely to persist until spring but there was only a 50% chance that it would persist beyond spring (March-April). “Because forecasts through the spring tend to be more uncertain and/or less accurate, the predicted chance that El Niño will persist beyond spring is 50% or less…” the climate centre’s statement noted.

Skymet defines ‘normal rains’ as that in a 4% window of 88 cm between June and September; 88 cm means ‘100%’ rainfall. Anything from 90% to 96% of the normal is ‘below normal’ and less than 90% constitutes a drought. Mr. Singh said that while the chances of a normal monsoon were the highest, about 50%, the next highest odds were those of ‘below normal’ rains.

‘Not formal forecast’

Skymet’s estimate doesn’t constitute a formal monsoon forecast, Mr. Singh clarified. However the organisation’s weather models as well as those of several other institutes, for now, agreed that the odds of a major El Nino (a temperature rise greater than a degree) were unlikely. “So we’re confident on that front but a fuller forecast can only be made, at the earliest, by April,” Mr. Singh told The Hindu .

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) too concurred that a strong El Nino is unlikely but said it’s too early to rule out a drought. “The way we compute…we need weather conditions until March 30 to input into our models and only then we get a sense of the monsoon. However, the odds of a strong El Nino are low,” said K.J. Ramesh, Director-General, IMD.

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