After meticulously studying the intensifying effects of a crucial decisive factor of troical weather, El Nino, senior meteorologists have concluded that India is poised to experience the driest August since 1901.
According to an India Meteorological Department (IMD) official, "With a 32 per cent precipitation deficit in August so far and the prediction of only subdued rainfall activity over a large part of the country in the next three days, India is on track to record the driest August since 1901."
August generally receives 254.9 mm of rainfall, accounting for around 30 per cent of the precipitation during the monsoon season.
IMD's data showed that India recorded a rainfall deficit of 25 per cent in August 2005, 24.6 per cent in 1965; 24.4 per cent in 1920; 24.1 per cent in 2009 and 24 per cent deficit in 1913, according to the IMD data.
Meteorologists put the blame on En Nino effect
When asked about the underlying cause behind the massive scarcity of rain in August this year, IMD chief Mrutyunjay Mohapatra said the primary reasons for below-normal rainfall in August are El Nino -- the warming of waters in the Pacific Ocean near South America -- and the "unfavourable phase of the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) which is known to reduce convection in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea".
"The favourable phase of MJO results in rainfall even if there is no low-pressure system. July recorded above-normal rainfall due to the favourable phase of MJO," Mohapatra said.
Only two low-pressure systems developed over the Bay of Bengal (BoB) against a normal of five under the impact of the prevailing El Nino conditions, he said.
"Another reason for below-normal rainfall in August was a lower number of low-pressure systems in the South China Sea and they, too, moved northward," he said.
Low-pressure systems that develop over the South China Sea typically move westward, reaching the north BoB after crossing Vietnam and Thailand.
El Nino is generally associated with the weakening monsoon winds and dry weather in India.
At a press conference on August 1, the IMD had said El Nino and other unfavourable conditions may suppress rain in August, though cumulative precipitation in the second half of the monsoon season (August-September) is expected to be normal.
What is Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO)?
The Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) is drfined as a large-scale intraseasonal atmospheric disturbance originating in tropical Africa and travelling eastwards. It is like a pulse or wave lasting about 30 to 60 days.
According to the meteorologists, this phenomenon is responsible for making the atmosphere more favorable for rainfall. This leads to increased cloud cover, stronger winds, and enhanced convective activity, resulting in heavier rainfall over the Indian subcontinent.
Heavy rains in North India due to Monsoon Trough
After a combined effect of south western monsoon and western disturbance, the northward movement of the monsoon trough or break-monsoon phase resulted in incessant torrential rainfall in the northern region of the country.
The northward migration of the monsoon trough, which is defined as an elongated low-pressure area extending from heat low over Pakistan to the Bay of Bengal --leads to break monsoon conditions or suppression of monsoon rain over major parts of India — especially in the core monsoon zone or the rain-fed agricultural region spanning from Gujarat in the west to West Bengal and Odisha in the east.
"Monsoon breaks and normal rains are part natural variability of the monsoon. However, El Nino causes these break monsoon phases to continue for a longer period. This is what we are seeing. The stronger the El Nino, the longer the break phase," Madhavan Rajeevan, former secretary at the Ministry of Earth Sciences, told PTI.
All hopes are on September
According to the IMD chief, owing to the positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), the outlook for September is not very bleak."September is not expected to be as bad as August. Models suggest the September rainfall will be on the lower side of the normal," he said.
"Rainfall in September is likely to be on the lower side (94 per cent to 99 per cent) of the normal (422.8 mm)," Mohapatra had said.
Rainfall recorded between 94 per cent and 106 per cent of the long-period average (LPA), or 50-year average, is considered normal.
Normal rainfall is critical for India's agricultural landscape, with 52 per cent of the net cultivated area relying on it. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in replenishing reservoirs essential for drinking water and power generation throughout the country.
Rainfed agriculture contributes to approximately 40 per cent of the country's total food production, making it a vital contributor to India's food security and economic stability.