Will El Nino strike?

Australian Met department says climatic indicators for the phenomenon have eased

By Dinsa Sachan
Published: Tuesday 17 July 2012

Here’s some relief for the Indians eagerly waiting for rains. The Australian Met department in its latest update on El Nino has said that climatic indicators of El Nino, such as temperature in the Pacific Ocean, trade winds and air pressure fluctuations over the tropic Pacific Ocean, have “eased”. In its statement released on July 17, the Met department says, “The past fortnight has seen climate indicators ease slightly, with all showing values near the threshold for an El Niño event.”

However, the weatherman added that such fluctuations are expected and do not rule out an El Nino phenomenon. “The tropical Pacific may approach or exceed El Niño thresholds sometime during the late southern winter or spring 2012.” In Australian seasonal timeline, winter occurs from June to August, while the country is embraced by spring from September to November.

Earlier forecasts by the Australian weather agency and the World Meteorological Organization had given positive indications of an El Nino occurrence this year. The El Nino brings aberrant weather to several parts of the world, including India where it has been associated with droughts. Not all El Nino years have been drought years though.

But the India Meteorological Department (IMD), which has generally maintained a guarded stand on the probability an El Nino occurrence, has given positive indications that it will show up. Reacting to the Australian Met forecast, D S Pai, director of long-range forecasting at IMD, told Down to Earth, “One should not read much into easing of parameters as such fluctuations are common. An El Nino now is most likely towards the end of the monsoon season.” Pai says the IMD is worried whether it will have an impact on September rains.

Jatin Singh, CEO of Skymet, a private weather forecasting company in Noida, says that this El Nino is of an evolving type. It builds up slowly, until it snowballs into a full-blown phenomenon by September. “It is already weakening the monsoon,” he says.

Rainfall this season is 21 per cent below the national average, and dry conditions have prevailed over north-western parts like Gujarat and Rajasthan, as well as parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka. Pai says low pressure systems are expected to develop over the Bay of Bengal around July 20, providing some relief to these areas.

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