El Niño may hit Indian monsoon in July

UN agency asks nations to make contingency plans for the expected impact on agriculture, water

By Jyotsna Singh
Published: Friday 27 June 2014


Large parts of India are receiving deficient rainfall this year after the south-west monsoon set in this month. While there is still uncertainty over whether the situation will improve, the latest update from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) paints a grim picture. It says chances of an El Niño event during this year’s monsoon is 60 per cent. July is the most crucial month for India as maximum rainfall is expected in this period.

"There is a 60 per cent likelihood of an El Niño being fully established between June and August, increasing to 75-80 per cent for the October to December period," according to WMO's statement released on Thursday. It means that the likelihood of El Nino developing is higher for winters. WMO has asked the countries which usually get affected by the phenomenon to be prepared. The United Nation's agency said that the ocean surface at Tropical Pacific Ocean is warming, indicating El Nino development. On the other hand, the atmospheric conditions (such as sea level pressure, cloudiness and trade winds) are still neutral. Thus, an El Niño cannot be established as yet. "However, atmospheric patterns that are typical of a fully developed El Niño event are still likely to appear," according to the WMO update.

“Our understanding of El Niño and La Niña has increased dramatically in recent years and this knowledge has enabled us to develop very successful climate services for society. Advance warning has given governments around the world time to make contingency plans for the impact of this year’s expected El Niño on the agriculture, water management, health and other climate-sensitive sectors,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “We remain vulnerable to this force of nature but we can protect ourselves by being better prepared.”

Other organisations like Bureau of Meteorology, Australia and US' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have predicted a 70 per cent chance of an El Niño year for 2014. Even though WMO's estimate is a little lower, it is high enough to keep the government and farmers worried.

El Niño is characterized by unusually warm ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific, coupled with typical atmospheric circulation patterns. It is a natural phenomenon with a recurring interval of 2-7 years and has a major impact on the climate around the world.

Report: El Nino and Indian droughts- A scoping exercise

Feature: El Niño and the summer monsoon of 2014

Research: Increasing frequency of extreme El Niño events due to greenhouse warming

Report: Seasonal climate outlook for South Asia (June to September 2014)

Report: El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO): review of possible impact on agricultural production in 2014/15

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