El Nino phenomenon

El Nino phenomenon

There are reports of early signs of the El Nino phenomenon developing in the Pacific Ocean which may have implications for the state of the south-west monsoon this year in India. International meteorological agencies are increasingly predicting that there may be a 50 per cent chance of El Nino occurring this year, on the basis of data available now.

The subsurface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean are considered to have increased in the last few weeks and the surface may warm up in the coming months. El Nino is associated with this warming and the resulting evaporation and impact on cloud formation. The last time El Nino occurred was five years ago. Though its direct relationship with monsoon is yet to be completely established, it cannot be ignored in India’s climate predictions.

In the recent past, India has experienced deficient monsoons in many years when El Nino had occurred. But there were years of good monsoon also when the phenomenon was observed. Climate scientists are of the view that hitherto unknown meteorological factors sometimes tame the effect of the phenomenon on the monsoon. The strength of El Nino, which varies from time to time when it occurs, is also a factor to be taken into consideration.

This year, according to present indications, it may not be very strong. But it still has to be factored into the country’s predictions of monsoon performance and the impact it will have on agriculture and related sectors of the economy. The India Meteorological Department has not yet come out with its monsoon outlook for the year. But experts associated with the agency feel there are chances of El Nino forming this year and a clear picture will emerge in the coming few weeks. They think that the situation needs to be kept under watch.

A less than normal monsoon, resulting from El Nino, may affect agricultural production. Coming after a good monsoon year, which helped agriculture, the impact may not be severe. The high level of food grain stocks will serve as a good cushion.

But economists do not rule out the possibility of the overall economy, which is reviving now, taking a hit. Some have predicted that the expected 6 per cent growth of the economy for the coming year may not materialise if farm production declines with the monsoon. The pressure of high inflation will also continue. The official machinery may have to start planning early for such eventualities.