India keeps a close watch on El Nino: First monsoon forecast next month

Written by Sandip Das | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 14 2014, 16:07pm hrs
With global weather forecasting agencies predicting a possible adverse impact of El Nino on the country's southwestern monsoons, the weather department is keeping a close watch on the events and would come up with its first prediction on monsoons arrival by next month.

It's too early to predict or assess the impact of El Nino and the IMD will take into consideration reports by global agencies before making the first prediction on monsoon arrival," Shailesh Nayak, Secretary, ministry of earth sciences told FE.

IMD would be announcing the date southwestern monsoon's arrival over Kerala next month. Usually the monsoon hits the Kerala coast by June 1 and then progresses across the country during its four-month run.

DS Pai, head of long-range monsoon forecast of IMD, said that there are several factors besides El Nino that can impact the monsoon's progress. We will take into considerations all factors, including predictions made by global agencies, before making our first monsoon prediction next month.

Pai said while a majority of monsoon deficient years coincide with El Nino events, there are a number of El Nino years where monsoon rains have been normal. In 2009, the El Nino impact saw the third highest deficient monsoon . Rainfall deficiency in 2009 for the country as a whole was -22% of Long Period Average (LPA). LPA is calculated on the basis of the average annual rainfall (89 cm) recorded between 1951 and 2000. However in 2010, despite an El Nino, monsoon was normal.

Pai said the first prediction on monsoon arrival would be done after the South Asian Climate Outlook Forum scheduled for April 22- 23 in Pune. Meteorologists from all South Asian countries would deliberate on global reports before arriving at a broad consensus on the monsoon pattern for the year.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch has warned of a rising risk of El Nino and said in case it kicks in, the RBI will be unable to achieve its glided path for CPI.

The RBI deputy governor Urjit Patel-led committee has set CPI target at 8% by January 2015. "If the rains are normal, CPI inflation will likely stay below the RBI's 8%-in-a-year-ahead target. In case of an El Nino, this will be very difficult to achieve, as a 5 % swing in food prices impacts CPI inflation 250 basis points," BofAML said in a report here.

El Nino, which occurs at irregular intervals of 2-7 years, weakens the Asian monsoon, often causing drought in north-west and central India.

The report said the Australian weather bureau sees increasing chance of El Nino in coming months. The US Climate Prediction Centre also sees about a 50% chance of El Nino developing during the summer or fall.

International climate models surveyed by the Australian weather bureau indicate that warming of the tropical Pacific is likely in the coming months, with most models showing temperatures approaching or exceeding El Nino thresholds during the austral winter, the report said.

BofAML said CPI inflation will likely climb back to 8.4% in March with vegetable prices going up again in the wake of hailstorms. CPI inflation eased to 8.1% in February from 8.8% in January and 9.9% in December.

The report expects that RBI may not raise policy rates on April 1 review.