KARACHI: Pakistan is expected to witness a dry and warmer monsoon season as a result of hot weather caused by El Nino that threatens crop output across Asia.
According to a Met Department advisory released on Thursday, most cities will receive below-
normal rainfall. Some areas in the northern region may receive above-normal rainfall, while western Balochistan, including the coastal belt, may experience near-normal rainfall.
The expected lower-than-normal rainfall and increasing temperature will result in a gradual reduction in soil moisture. This will increase the water requirement for Kharif crops and vegetables, particularly in the southern half of the country, the advisory said.
Lower than normal rainfall forecast across Asia as El Nino imperils crops
Speaking to Dawn, Chief Meteorologist Dr Sardar Sarfaraz said the monsoon season was expected to be relatively dry and very warm, especially in Sindh, Punjab and parts of Balochistan on account of the regional climatic conditions.
“By mid-June, most parts of Sindh and Punjab would likely see soaring temperatures,” he said while describing the episodes of rain and thunderstorms in May as unusual. “Many parts of the country also experienced hailstorms. It was indeed unusual to have four westerly waves one after another in May.”
El Nino imperils crop output
The dry spell in Pakistan would be caused by El Nino, a warming of water surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean, which was expected to develop in the coming months, the AFP news agency reported on Thursday.
The phenomenon causes hot and dry weather across Asia and Australia while bringing heavier-than-normal rainfall to the southern US and southern South America.
“The seasonal outlook in India is a weaker than normal monsoon for the entire country, extending into Pakistan,” said Chris Hyde, a meteorologist at US-based Maxar.
The wheat output in Australia, the world’s second-largest exporter of the grain, was also expected to take a hit, while palm oil and rice production is likely to suffer in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, according to forecasters and analysts.
Lower production of cereals and oilseeds in Asia because of El Nino is likely to heighten food inflation worries for some of the world’s most vulnerable consumers.
US, Argentina may get relief
In the United States and Argentina, ample rains forecast in the second half would benefit crops, although overall output will depend on the timing of the El Nino.
Meteorologists are divided on how fast the transition to El Nino from the current La Nina, a pattern when Pacific Ocean waters turn colder than normal, will impact US weather, but the shift should be complete during the key development stage for corn and soybeans.
“I think the growing conditions are going to be pretty good,” said David Tolleris, president of forecasting service WxRisk.
Rains are likely to help recharge depleted soil moisture in the US plains and set the stage for a much-improved winter wheat harvest in 2024, according to weather forecasters.
Even if the weather pattern ends up boosting crop output in the Americas, the impact in Asia could reverberate across global food markets.
Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2023