Seven years in a row

ALL’S well, it is said, that ends well. This applies broadly, but not fully, to this year’s monsoon. As it begins to retreat from the northwest, it seems that the total rainfall during the four-month monsoon period (June to September) will be normal…. This has not just dissipated the fear of a major drought like that of 2009, but has also helped refill emptied reservoirs…. However, the rains’ spread in space and time has been highly skewed, upsetting the kharif-sowing schedule due to scarcity of rain in June and July. The belated surge in rainfall has helped, but the ill effects of delayed planting and early-season moisture stress seem to have endured — as reflected in the fact that kharif production is expected to be lower than last year’s record output.

…It is also true, of course, that the already dismal credibility of the official weather forecaster, the India Meteorological Department … has been further dented this year. The IMD revised its rainfall projections thrice — and erred each time. After originally projecting total rainfall at 98 per cent of the normal amount, it progressively lowered it — to 96 per cent in end-June and then to below 90 per cent, even as low as 85 per cent, by the beginning of August. And a few days after the IMD dipped its forecast to its lowest level, the monsoon rebounded…. As a result, rainfall deficiency fell steadily from 31 per cent at end-June to around 20 per cent by end-July, 15 per cent by end-August and finally around five per cent by the end of the season. The final figure has turned out close to what the IMD prophesied as early as April — but it seems impossible to attribute this to anything other than blind chance. Ever since the collapse of the … Gowarikar model … the IMD has struggled with its forecasts. It may, therefore, be worthwhile to try out outsourcing the monsoon prediction…. — (Sept 28)

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