Climate Predictions: Is it all a Piffle!
The whole world looks forward to the onset of the Indian monsoon either in the last week of May or early June every year. What makes it important for the Indian economy, climatologists and researchers?
What is it with our weather?
I cannot predict it,
On a sunny day, it was too hot,
So, I only wore a T-shirt.
It got colder by the minute,
My shivering arms were bare.
|And then it started raining,
And that just wet my hair!
My feet got soaking wet,
And I think I've caught a sniffle,
I don't believe the weatherman.
Now I think that it's a piffle!
-Dipti Mahi Singh, Class VIII (from Poems competition October 2021 held by India Meteorological Department).
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) indeed has a tough job in its hands. It has to keep monitoring the daily changes in weather and seasonal variations in climate. It has to predict the rainfall, the cyclones, typhoons some of which come all of a sudden due to volatile sea currents. And sometimes, IMD predictions may go off the mark despite the use of sophisticated satellite technologies and mathematical models. And just like Dipti Mahi Singh, the VIII grade student quoted above, people just don’t believe the weatherman may be because they only see the failures!
IMD is one of the oldest institutions still functioning in India, established in 1875 and now the principal government agency in all matters relating to meteorology and allied subjects.
One of the important IMD predictions the whole world looks forward to is the monsoon predictions. There are two monsoons -the South West Monsoon (June to September) and North-East Monsoon (October to December). Monsoon predictions hold importance for the Indian economy as our agriculture is still rain-fed. A good rainfall ensures that we have abundant crops and a good harvest. Farmers get a good income which they spend on a lot of things that are produced by the industry. The fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry and consumer durables industry looks forward o a great monsoon every year. Their fortunes depend on the rural sales which are higher in volume whether it is soaps, toiletries, stationery, processed foods and several other products. Sales of televisions, home appliances and electrical goods also increase when crops are plenty and farmers get a good income. The power utilities and agriculture department also look forward to rain forecasts as their dams have to be filled to produce energy and also distribute water to irrigate our fields. The Reserve Bank of India and Finance Ministry also makes growth forecasts for the economy based on the possibility of a normal or below average monsoon.
Kharif and Rabi Crops
Depending on sowing and harvest, India has two crop seasons for food grains- Kharif and Rabi. The sowing of Kharif crops start in April-May but the ideal time is June-July. The harvest is done during September. That is the reason why harvest festivals are usually held in some states in September while Rabi crops are sown in October-November and harvested in March or April. Some of the important Kharif crops are -Rice, Maize, Sorghum, Bajra, Soybean, Cotton while important Rabi crops are: Wheat, Barley, Oats, Pulses, Mustard and Linseed. Kharif crops are more rain dependent than rabi crops.
Forecasts for 2022
IMD makes the first forecast of monsoon in mid-April and the tell the world whether the rainfall will be normal or less. According to the model adopted by IMD which looks at average of the rainfall received during 1971-2020, India is likely to receive 96%-104% of long period average of rainfall, ie. 87 cm in 2022 June to September. IMD has stated that it is monitoring the La Nina conditions over the equatorial Pacific region which influences the rainfall." As sea surface temperature conditions over the Pacific and the Indian Oceans are known to have strong influence on Indian monsoon IMD is carefully monitoring the evolution of sea surface conditions over these Ocean basins."
IMD issues an update on South West Monsoon forecast in the last week of May to give a clear picture of annual rainfall expected and conditions in the ocean regarding the possibilities of flooding.
Climate Science as a Career
With the use of artificial intelligence, big data analytics and use of advanced communication satellites, the field of climate science is indeed becoming more exciting and offers inter-disciplinary approaches from a career perspective. Climate science courses are offered by leading universities worldwide both in offline and online modes.
Published in Pallikkutam May 2022 issue- https://www.pallikkutam.com/subscribe to read more such articles