Poor northeast monsoon spells trouble for rabi season

Deficit post-monsoon rains India saw last year to ensure less moisture in the air and in turn serve as the first jolt to farmers

By Akshit Sangomla
Published: Tuesday 08 January 2019
Northeast monsoon
Credit: Getty Images Credit: Getty Images

The northeast monsoon (NEM) has been performed poorly in the last decade since seven of the 10 years since 2009 have witnessed deficient rains. Also, the past five years have witnessed a continuous streak of less than normal rains.

A poor NEM means that there will be less available moisture in the atmosphere for the rabi crop season. This would also be the first jolt to the Indian farmers who will begin facing the cycle of extreme weather events beginning with the ongoing ground frost conditions in various Indian states. The last year has been no different.

The performance of the 2018 NEM season which officially ended on January 2, has been very weak. The country-wide deficiency in post-monsoon rainfall stands at 44 per cent as on December 31, shows the India Meteorological Department (IMD) data. This is the third highest deficit in post-monsoon rainfall in the last 10 years behind 48 per cent in 2011 and 45 per cent in 2016.

Among the different regions, central India, east and northeast India have fared the worst with deficits of 51 per cent each. Northwest India has received 45 per cent less rains than normal and the southern peninsula is 36 per cent deficient.

IMD had announced the commencement of the NEM season on November 1 which was a delayed start. Officially the season starts on October 1 itself but the rains start coming in around the mid of October. The beginning of the season was also weak.

Between November 1 and 7, Tamil Nadu received 28 per cent less rainfall than normal. Even on November 8, rainfall was 71 per cent below normal. In Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra Pradesh, the situation was much worse. Both these sub divisions were reeling under a deficit of 68 per cent below normal. Karnataka too had received below normal rainfall in that week. South interior Karnataka received 64 per cent less rainfall while north interior Karnataka received 99 per cent less rainfall than normal. Kerala, too, had a deficit of 52 per cent during the same time.

Further, between November 22 and 28, 28 Indian states and union territories received next to no rainfall, according to the IMD. Of these, 26 had a rainfall deficit of 100 per cent.

The only area that got the better end of the deal was the southern peninsula. Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh got 69 per cent, 50 per cent and 14 per cent excess rainfall.

December also started off slowly. The second week experienced 48 per cent deficit rainfall. The next week, owing to cyclone Phethai and other weather systems, there was double the normal rainfall all over the country. But soon after, the next two weeks saw rains come to a halt with large deficit of 83 and 88 per cent.

There were three cyclonic systems in the Bay of Bengal in this period—Titli, Gaja and Phethai. All these storms made landfall at different locations on the Eastern coast of India and caused significant damage. Usually such intense systems cause rainfall and improve the NEM’s performance, at least in the southern states, but that did not happen with the southern peninsula experiencing 36 per cent less rainfall than normal.

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