Climate Change Affects Monsoons Too

Updated: Oct 28 2002, 05:30am hrs
India is paying heavily for the misdeeds of major polluting countries. Monsoon and weather patterns and agricultural crops in the country are being affected due to the induced global climate change.

The Kyoto Protocol is an effective instrument for both mitigaton of the phenomena as well as adaption to changes. So far, 96 member countries of the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCC), representing about 37.4% of the total global GHG emissions, have ratified or approved the protocol. With Russia, Canada and other countries committing to ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, it is likely to come into force by the early 2003.

However, it is unfortunate that a major pullutant, the US, has decided to keep away from the Kyoto Protocol, declaring that it believes more in adaptation than mitigation.

Meanwhile seven Asian countries, including China, Japan, Iran, Syria, Myanmar, Bhutan and India, have jointly suggested the setting up of a tropical Asia science and technology centre on capacity building for climate change. India, having the richest depository of 175 years of climate data, is likely to be the information hub.

The proposed centre will study the causes and impact of climate change through networking for data collection, dissemination, inter-calibration and analysis and suggest adaptation and mitigation strategies. It is also proposed to rope in African countries in this project for better networking in the region.

The proposal for a centre has been placed before the science and technology sub-committee of the eighth Conference of Parties (CoP-8) to the UNFCCC for evaluation and subsequent support. The proposal is also slated to be discussed on October 31 at a CoP-8 side event.

It would be wise for CoP-8 to approve and fund this project as an attempt to help the developing nations in both mitigation and adaptation. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) should also fund this project.

Currently, global data for carbon dioxide emissions are received from only one station in the world - Monolova - in the US. The impact of El Nino and La Nina are also recorded by stations located in the US. For recording emissions of GHGs and other pollutants, there are few stations scattered over the globe. The Inter-governmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) is responsible for preparing only the global averages for temperature changes and emissions, which are not of much use for assessing regional impact. Hence, for assessing the impact of climate changes in tropical regions, it is necessary that a suitable centre be set up.

Moreover, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has already suggested that member countries set up climate change committees and incorporate the impact of the global climate in monsoon and rain forecast models.

The WMO has convened a meeting of its member organisations in Geneva on January 2003 to discuss the possibilities of developing climate predication models in its six regional centres located in Africa, Asia, North America & the Carribeans, Latin America, South East Asia & the Pacific and Europe. Attempts would be made to predict climate change six months in advance for each of these specific regions.

The Geneva meeting will be crucial. It will evaluate all the nine climate models developed so far and suggest improvements for final adoption in specific regions. So far, climate models have been developed by the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast (ECMWF), International Research Institute (IRI) in the US, Met departments of the UK, France, Germany, Australia and Japan. Apart from this, the WMO is working in close cooperation with climate study project, Clivar, set up by private initiative.

It is important to know the initiatives taken by India in studying the impact of climate change. The official weather forecasting agency, India Meteorological Department (IMD) has no provision for incorporating the climate change factor in its monsoon forecast model, except for temperature rise. The 16-parametre power regression statistical forecast model renders no scope to study any one-to-one relationship with any of the predictors, including the El Nino and southern oscillation index. The model does not deal with the changing chemistry of the atmosphere or the hydroscopic nature of aerosols or particulates present.

The IMD takes into consideration only the Nino 1+2 index which is close to the Peru coast. It ignores other El Nino indices like Nino 3, 3.4 and 4. In fact, the Nino 4 region is closer to the Indian Ocean. In the current 2002 El Nino year, Nino 1+2 index showed a cooling of temperature while the Nino 3, 3.4 and 4 indices showed a constant rise in temperature throughout the monsoon season. The rise in Nino 3, 3.4 and 4 indices proves that El Nino has affected monsoon rains in the current year.

By estimating the El Nino impact before the monsoon and not monitoring its impact in the season, the IMD has made a mistake. According to past data, 11 El Nino years have caused droughts in the country and 20 El Nino years have caused the cumulative average rainfall over the country to be below normal; only in two El Nino years the average rainfall over the country was above normal. In 1997-98, the El Nino impact was felt in the post-monsoon and winter periods when rainfall was affected, leading to a 4 per cent decline in foodgrains output and 1.9 per cent decline in value-added agriculture growth.

For assessing the impact of climate change, India carried out three experiments at different times. The Bay of Bengal Monsoon Experiment (BOBMEX) and the Arabian Sea Monsoon Experiment (ARMEX) were solely conducted by India while the Indian Ocean Experiment (INDOEX) was conducted in collaboration with the US and European countries. The findings of these experiments indicated a definite change in sea temperatures and chemistry of the atmosphere and seas which may have an impact on the weather pattern in the country.

The INDOEX project conducted from 1996 to 1999 observed a haze cover over the Indian Ocean, which was later termed as the Asian Brown Cloud. It observed that the particulate matter present in the haze came from hundreds of kilometres away and was comparable to the suburban air pollution in North America and Europe.

Chemical analyses showed that 85 per cent of the haze cover contained aerosols from anthropogenic sources like fossil fuel burning, industrial emissions and biomass burning.