Posts Tagged ‘climate’
This panel of 12 images shows the change that takes place in a region of the Deccan. Each image shows what is called a Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) for the region. This is a rolling eight-day series computed daily using imagery from the Terra/MODIS system and viewed using the NASA Worldview website.
The colours (green and brown shades, whitish shades) show us the vegetation health with deep green being better than light green, dark brown being better than light brown. The index is also used to signal where areas are beginning to experience arid and water-scarce conditions.
The region is the west-central Deccan – the Karnataka Plateau – corresponds to the Vijayapur (Bijapur) district of north Karnataka with parts of Bagalkot district and is part of the central Indian semi-arid bioclimatic zone.
The pictures in the panel show the vegetation extent and health (NDVI) calculated on that day for an eight-day period. Each picture is a fortnight apart, and this series starts on 4 November 2016 (bottom right) and ends on 7 April 2017 (top left). The retreat of the green is seen clearly from one fortnight to the next.
Of interest in this region is the Almatti dam and reservoir, in the Krishna river basin, which is visible in the lower centre of each picture. On 13 April there was no water in Almatti, which has a full capacity of 3.105 billion cubic metres (bcm). For the week ending 30 March it had 0.015 bcm of water, the week ending 6 April 0.001 bcm.
For the week ending 3 November 2016, which is when the panel of pictures begins, Almatti had 2.588 bcm of water. The reservoir water runs a hydroelectric power plant, of 240 MW, and which needs flowing water to turn the turbines.
When the reservoir is full, the hydel plant produces about 175 million units of electricity. But on 13 March the Central Electricity Authority’s daily report showed that Almatti could produce only 3.02 million units. On 10 April, this had plunged to 0.04 million units, but the hydel plant had produced no power since 1 April.
The Indian summer monsoon in 2016, for the months of June to September, will be normal to better-than-normal in almost all of the 36 meteorological sub-divisions. This is my reading of the seasonal climatic predictions provided by five different sources. Should the conditions that presage such a rainy season continue to be favourable, a normal monsoon coming after two years of faltering rain, and with drought conditions have set into many districts, will be a vast relief.
My outlook for the June to September 2016 monsoon period is based on an initial study of the three-monthly and seasonal predictions which are in the public domain, from the following agencies: The Climate Prediction and Monitoring Group of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India; the Climate Forecast System Version 2 (CFSv2) by the Climate Prediction Center of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), USA; regionalised Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) forecasts from the Climate Prediction Center which are based on models of the NOAA and NASA; and the Meteorological ‘Met’ Office of Britain which is a World Meteorological Organisation climate research centre.
Combining the indications from this early set of forecasts we see that after typical monsoon conditions have set in over southern and peninsular India, the June and July rainfall (quantities) should be normal for June with an increase in average rainfall for July (in the southern peninsula, the west coast, north-eastern states and the north India mountainous states). The five models currently also point to the August and September period recording above normal rainfall over most of India, and normal rainfall in central India.
Predictive capabilities have increased over the last few years, and a number of national weather service agencies collaborate to share data and expertise on climate models. There is much collaboration particularly for the Asian monsoons – our Indian summer monsoon and the monsoon of south-east Asia – because of the implications for the volumes of food crops, in particular rice and wheat, that are likely to be sown and then harvested.
The climatic prediction models whose forecasting products I examined make their predictions for 90-day periods (such as May, June and July together) based on conditions observed and calculated for a given month (January, February and March so far). Later in April and then twice again in May I will consolidate and expand the scope of this initial prognosis – which is of a normal to above normal monsoon – as the forecasts are updated. [This is also posted at India Climate Portal.]
This year, the Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS, a project of the FAO) has brought into public domain a new rainfall and vegetation assessment indicator. The indicator takes the form of maps which describe conditions over blocks of ten days each, with each such block termed a dekad (from the Greek for ‘ten’). Thus we have visual views of divisions of thirds of a month which from a crop cultivation point of view, now lies between the weekly and fortnightly assessments regularly provided by agri-meteorological services.
In 2015, what was quickly called “out of season” rainfall was experienced in most of India during March and April. These conditions carried over into May and that is why the typical contrast between a hot and rainless May and a wet June is not seen.
The panel of maps shows the incidence of normal, below normal and above normal rain during six dekads of May and June. Greens signal above normal, yellows are normal and reds are below normal. The first dekad of May looks like what the second week of June normally does, but for the large above normal zone in the north-central Deccan. The second dekad of May has in this set had the largest number of above normal points, with more rain than usual over the southern peninsula, and over Chhattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal. Rajasthan and Punjab.
The third dekad of May shows most of India as far below normal. This changes in the first dekad of June, with rain over the eastern coast registering much above normal for the period – Tamil Nadu, Rayalaseema, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. During the second dekad of June, the divide north and south of the Vindhyas is visible, when northern India and the Gangetic belt continued to experience very hot days whereas over Telengana, Karnataka, Vidarbha and Madhya Maharashtra there was above normal rainfall. During the third dekad of June the picture was almost reversed as the southern states fell below their running rainfall averages.
This panel describes not rainfall but the anomalies (above and below) recorded in received rainfall. At the level of a meteorological sub-division or a river basin, the anomaly maps are a quick and reliable guide for judging the impacts of climate variability on crop phases (preparation, sowing, harvest) and on water stocks.
This panel of four images shows: top left, winds at around sea level; top right, winds at about 1,460 metres altitude (around 4,780 feet); lower left, winds at 3,010 metres (9,880 feet); lower right, winds at 5,570 metres (18,280 feet).
These are the wind patterns that are bringing the monsoon to us from just above the equator, as they travel east-north-eastwards towards the Indian peninsula, and earlier north-north-westwards as they travelled from near Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands, which lie about 21 degrees south of the equator.
In the top two images, the south-west (from our point of view) winds sweeping across the Arabian Sea are the dominant feature, with the winds at the higher of the two altitudes (right, at 850 millibars, or mb, which is around 1,460 metres) rushing in at just the direction and velocity they ought to. Winds at near-sea level are less powerful, and in both the two top images winds are also seen travelling due north up the Bay of Bengal.
In the lower two images, the vortex of Cyclone Ashobaa is clearly seen, with wind trails running due east across the Arabian Sea, then across peninsular India and out over the Bay of Bengal towards Burma. More markdly with the winds in the lower left image, which are at 700 mb or 3,010 metres, they scarcely touch central and north-western India and the Gangetic belt (whereas the winds at lower altitudes, as seen in the upper two images, do).
Finally, in the lower right image are the winds at 500 mb, or 5,570 metres. Here we see them streaming powerfully down from the Hindu Kush-western Himalaya, across north India and thence right across the Gangetic belt, through Assam and the north-east. These are the major wind patterns we have now in mid-July, and they will change in strength, direction and intent as El Nino changes and also as the Northern hemisphere summer continues over the Eurasian land mass.
These wonderful images are taken from the ‘earth’ weather observation visualisation which skillfully employs the forecasting by supercomputers of current weather data from the Global Forecast System (GFS) and the NOAA/NCEP climate and weather modelling programmes.
This year’s ritual of talking about climate and talking about the effects of changing climates has begun. This is the 21st year that this is being done, and in none of the previous 20 years have the talkers achieved any worthwhile goal. They will not this year either, although much money will be spent on slick and colourful messages to convince the publics of 196 countries otherwise.
On 1 June the Bonn Climate Change Conference June 2015 began. The actors at this conference are mainly from the same cast that has played these roles for 20 years. They have been replaced here and there, and overall the main cast and supporting casts have grown in number – I think this growth in the number of climate negotiators and climate experts matches the growth rate of parts per million of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, there may be a correlation that can inspire a new discipline of research.
These conferences are expensive, for thousands of people are involved. Most of these people profess to be concerned about climate change and its effects and most of these people maintain curriculum vitaes that are tomes designed to awe and impress, usually with the purpose of securing well-paid consultancies or academic tenureships or some such similar lucrative sinecures. It is an industry, this negotiating climate change, whose own rates of growth are about as steep as the number of those, in the OECD countries, who fall into debt. As before, there may be interesting correlations to note.
The publics of the 196 countries that are constrained to send emissaries and observers and negotiators to these colossal jamborees have been lied to for 20 years quite successfully, and this 21st year we will see the lies repeated and presented all wrapped up in new tinsel. Many of these countries – from south-eastern and central Europe, from small island states in the Pacific and Indian oceans, from the Caribbean, from South America and from South-East Asia – pay for the useless privilege of sending representatives to attend this annual round of sophisticated tomfoolery. It is money down the drain for them.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) under whose aegis most of these jamborees are held, and in whose august name most of the hollow but portentous pronouncements are ritually made, is an organisation that is over the hill, round the bend and up the wall. It represents today nothing that is in the interest of the public and it represents today almost everything that is in the interest of the corporate plutocracy, whether global or regional or national.
Unembarrassed by its own hopelessly prodigal existence, the UNFCCC lines up ‘technical expert meetings’ month after month to produce suitably technical papers that would fill libraries, if they were printed. It arranges conclaves in expensive locales (all sponsored naturally) to gauge ‘mitigation ambition of countries through multilateral assessment’. It commissions extensive reviews of the adequacy of countries’ agreed goals to keep the global average temperature from rising beyond 2°C above pre-industrial levels and the abundantly-qualified authors of these reviews (which read very much like the reviews of 2014, 2013, 2012 and so on) self-importantly inform us that “the world is not yet on track to achieve the long-term global goal, but successful mitigation policies are known and must be scaled up urgently”, just as their predecessors did 20 years ago.
The main UNFCCC cast and its supporting cast (of thousands, but these thousands alas do not form the geographic representation that the United Nations system pretends to) spend days together at preparatory conferences and meetings, and pre-preparatory conferences and meetings, and agenda-setting conferences and meetings, and theme-outlining conferences and meetings, all year round. From somewhere within this flurry of busy nothingness they announce (perhaps on the days before the solstices and following the equinoxes) that new breakthroughs have been made in the negotiating text and that consensus is nigh.
This has gone on far too long. Twenty years ago, when this great obfuscation began, there were some 1.83 billion children (under 14 years old) in the world. Today they are at ages where they are finishing primary school, have begun working (many of them in informal, insecure, hazardous jobs whose paltry wages keep families alive) and a few are completing university degrees. Some of this 1.83 billion may have an interest in what climate is and why it changes but for them, the techno-financial labyrinths invented by the UNFCCC and its comfortable nest of crony institutions offer no enlightenment. For those young women and men, the cancerous industry of climate change negotiations has done nothing to ensure, during their lifetimes till now, any reduction in the exploitation and use of materials whose first and primary effect is to degrade the nature upon which we all depend. [This article has also been posted on the India Climate Portal.]
The middle of February is when the chill begins to abate. The middle of May is when the monsoon is longed for. In our towns, district headquarters and cities, that climatic journey of 90 days is one of a steady rise in the reading of the temperature gauge, from the low 20s to the mid 30s.
This large panel of 90 days of daily average temperatures shows, in 57 ways, the effects of the rains that almost every district has experienced during the last two months. For each city, the curved line is the long period ‘normal’ for these 90 days, based on daily averages. Also for each city, the second line which swings above and below the ‘normal’ is the one that describes the changes in its daily average from February to May 2015.
Where this second line crosses to rise above the normal, the intervening space is red, where it dips below is coloured blue. The patches of red or blue are what tell us about the effects of a lingering winter, or rains that have been called ‘unseasonal’ but which we think signal a shift in the monsoon patterns.
Amongst the readings there is to be found some general similarities and also some individual peculiarities. Overall, there are more blue patches than there are red ones, and that describes how most of the cities in this panel have escaped (till this point) the typical heat of April and May. The second noteworthy general finding is that these blue patches occur more frequently in the second half of the 90 days, and so are the result of the rainy spells experienced from March to early May.
Hisar (in Haryana) has remained under the normal temperature line for many more days than above or near it. So have Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh), Pendra (Chhattisgarh), Ranchi (Jharkhand), Nagpur (Maharashtra) and Jharsuguda (Odisha).
On the other hand in peninsular and south India, the below ‘normal’ daily average temperature readings are to be found in the latter half of the time period, coinciding with the frequent wet spells. This we can see in Kakinada, Kurnool and Anantapur (Andhra Pradesh), Bangalore, Gadag and Mangalore (Karnataka), Chennai, Cuddalore and Tiruchirapalli (Tamil Nadu) and Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala). [A zip file with the charts for all 57 cities is available here (1.2MB).]
What pattern will the next 30 days worth of temperature readings follow? In four weeks we will update this bird’s eye view of city temperatures, by which time monsoon 2015 should continue to give us more blues than reds. [Temperature time series plots are courtesy the NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction.]
12 Oct – The IMD has issued its evening alert on cyclone Hudhud. The 1700 IST (5:00pm IST) alert contains a heavy rainfall warning and a wind warning.
Heavy rainfall warning: Rainfall at most places with heavy (6.5-12.4 cm) to very heavy falls (12.5-24.4 cm) at a few places and isolated extremely heavy falls (>24.5 cm) would occur over West and East Godavari, Visakhapatnam, Vijayanagaram and Srikakulam districts of north Andhra Pradesh and Ganjam, Gajapati, Koraput, Rayagada, Nabarangpur, Malkangiri, Kalahandi, Phulbani districts of south Odisha during next 24 hrs. Rainfall would occur at most places with heavy to very heavy rainfall at isolated places over Krishna, Guntur and Prakasham districts of Andhra Pradesh and north Odisha during the same period. Rainfall at most places with heavy falls at a few places would occur over south Chattisgarh, adjoining Telangana and isolated heavy to very heavy falls over north Chattisgarh, east Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar.
Wind warning: Current gale wind speed reaching 130-140 kmph gusting to 150 kmph would decrease gradually to 100-110 kmph gusting to 120 kmph during next 3 hours and to 80-90 kmph during subsequent 6 hours over East Godavari, Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts of North Andhra Pradesh. Wind speed of 80-90 kmph gusting to 100 kmph would prevail over Koraput, Malkangiri, Nabarangpur and Rayagada districts during next 6 hrs and 50 to 60 kmph during subsequent 12 hrs. Squally wind speed reaching upto 55-65 kmph gusting to 75 kmph would also prevail along and off West Godavari and Krishna districts of Andhra Pradesh, Ganjam and Gajapati districts of Odisha, south Chattisgarh and adjoining districts of north Telangana during next 12 hours.
Odisha district control room phone numbers have been distributed thanks to eodisha.org.
They are: Mayurbhanj 06792 252759, Jajpur 06728 222648, Gajapati 06815 222943, Dhenkanal 06762 221376, Khurda 06755 220002, Keonjhar 06766 255437, Cuttack 0671 2507842, Ganjam 06811 263978, Puri 06752 223237, Kendrapara 06727 232803, Jagatsinghpur 06724 220368, Balasore 06782 26267, Bhadrak 06784 251881.
There are reports on twitter that the leading edge of cyclone Hudhud crossed the coast at around 1030 IST (0500 UTC). The reported maximum wind speed is just above 200 kmph which means the destructive force threatens structures too.
I appeal to people in coastal districts to stay indoors even 6 hours after the cyclone’s effect. Your safety is my concern.
— N Chandrababu Naidu (@ncbn) October 12, 2014
— Deepa Ghosh (@deepaghosh2007) October 12, 2014
This tweet means that western ‘wall’ of the cyclone has crossed. It took just under two hours. The eastern ‘wall’ crossing of the coast, accompanied by severely high winds and very heavy rain, is under way now.
— Sudhan Rajagopal BJP (@BJPsudhanRSS) October 12, 2014
— Saswat K Swain (@saswat28) October 12, 2014
Roofs of houses fly away like leaves, huge trees falling everywhere #Hudhud creating maximum destruction.
— Imran Baig (@imranbaig) October 12, 2014
Navy officials warn that there will be a lull in the storm at around 11.30 am, but the storm will again intensify after that for a few hours.
Zee News has a list of cancelled and curtailed trains.
At least 400,000 people have been evacuated from the coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha states as authorities aimed for zero casualties.
11 Oct – Where is Cyclone Hudhud and how fast is it moving towards land? The India Meteorological Department has said in its most recent alert – 1430/2:30pm on 11 October – that “the Very Severe Cyclonic Storm” is now about 260 kilometres south-east of Visakhapatnam and 350 km south-south-east of Gopalpur. IMD expects the cyclone to travel north-west and cross the coast of north Andhra Pradesh, near Visakhapatnam, by mid-morning on 12 October 2014.
Around 100,000 people have been evacuated in Andhra Pradesh to high-rise buildings, shelters and relief centres, with plans to move a total of 300,000 to safety. Authorities in Odisha said they were monitoring the situation and would, if necessary, move 300,000 people most at risk.
The evacuation effort was comparable in scale to the one that preceded Cyclone Phailin exactly a year ago, and which was credited with minimising the fatalities to 53. When a huge storm hit the same area 15 years ago, 10,000 people died.
Authorities have been stocking cyclone shelters with dry rations, water purification tablets and generators. They have opened up 24-hour emergency control rooms and dispatched satellite phones to officials in charge of vulnerable districts.
The AP government has cancelled leaves of employees and has asked everyone to remain on duty on the weekend. In Vizag, where the cyclone is expected to make landfall, the administration has opened 175 shelters and moved close to 40,000 people from the coastal villages. In Srikakulam, people of 250 villages in 11 mandals which may be affected have been evacuated.
While human casualties are not expected due to the massive evacuation, power and telecommunication lines will be uprooted leading to widespread disruption. A warning has been issued that flooding and uprooted trees will cut off escape routes, national and state highways and traffic is being regulated to ensure that no one is caught in the flash floods caused by heavy rains.
Officials said that National Disaster Response Force teams have been strategically placed along the coast to be deployed wherever they are required. Railways has cancelled all trains passing through the three districts which are likely to be affected.
The IMD has issued a “Heavy Rainfall Warning” which has said that driven by the cyclonic winds, rainfall at most places along the AP and Odisha coast will be heavy (6.5–12.4cm) to very heavy (12.5–24.4 cm). These places include West and East Godavari, Visakhapatnam, Vijayanagaram and Srikakulam districts of north Andhra Pradesh and Ganjam, Gajapati, Koraput, Rayagada, Nabarangpur, Malkangiri, Kalahandi, Phulbani districts of south Odisha.
10 Oct – The India Meteorological Department said on the evening of 10 October that the “Very Severe Cyclonic Storm” is centered near latitude 15.0ºN and longitude 86.8ºE about 470 km east-southeast of Visakhapatnam and 520 km south-southeast of Gopalpur. This was the fix IMD had on the centre of the cyclone at 1430 IST on 10 October 2014.
Here are the salient points from news reports released during the afternoon of 10 October:
Cyclone Hudhud will cross the north Andhra Pradesh coast on October 12 and is expected to make landfall close to Visakhapatnam, according to the Cyclone Warning Centre (CWC) at Visakhapatnam. “It is forecast that Hudhud, which is already a severe cyclonic storm, will intensify into a very severe cyclonic storm in next 12 hours. Hudhud is likely to make landfall on October 12 close to Visakhapatnam,” said IMD’s Hyderabad centre.
Cyclone Hudhud has moved closer to the coast of Odisha and eight districts of the state are likely to be affected by it. The districts likely to be affected by the cyclone are Ganjam, Gajapati, Rayagada, Koraput, Malkangiri, Nabarangpur, Kalahandi and Kandhamal. All these districts have been provided with satellite phones for emergency and constant vigil was being maintained on the rivers like Bansadhara, Rusikulya and Nagabali as heavy rain is expected in southern districts.
With cyclone Hudhud fast approaching the states of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh today spoke to the chief ministers of the three states on the steps being taken to deal with the situation. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik sought satellite phones which could be used in case high-speed winds disturbed the telecommunication system.
According to the India Meteorological Department, the wind speeds of cyclone Hudhud will be less than what the east coast experienced during Phailin in October 2013. The wind speed during cyclone Phailin was nearly 210 kmph, which made the cyclone the second-strongest ever to hit India’s coastal region. The country had witnessed its severest cyclone in Odisha in 1999.
Frequent updates and advisories can also be found at GDACS – the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (a cooperation framework under the UN umbrella). GDACS provides real-time access to web-based disaster information systems and related coordination tools.
Cities that will directly be affected by cyclone Hudhud are Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh, Vizianagaram in AP, Bhogapuram in AP, and Anakapalle in AP.
From the first week of June 2014 until the middle of September 2014, there have been floods and conditions near drought in many districts, but for India the tale of monsoon 2014 comes from individual districts and not from a national ‘average’ or a ‘cumulative’.
This revealing chart tells some of that tale. It shows that for the first six weeks of monsoon 2014, most districts recorded rain below their normals for those weeks.
The lines are percentile lines; they tell us what percent of districts recorded how much rainfall in a monsoon week relative to their normals for that week. This chart does not show how much rain – it shows distance away from a weekly normal for districts.
The left scale is a percentage – higher percentages indicate how much above normal districts recorded their rainfall, negative numbers show us how much below normal their rainfall was.
The dates (the bottom scale) are for weeks ending on that date for which ‘normals’ and departures from normal were recorded. The P_01 to P_09 lines are the percentiles (10th to 90th) of districts in every week.
The district weekly normal is an important measure for matters like sowing of crop and issuing water rationing instructions in talukas and blocks. In the week ending 23 July for example, we see that the 60th percentile line spiked above normal, and this means that in that week only four out of ten districts all over India received the amount of rain it should have based on the average of the last 50 years.
The districts overview chart is distilled from the detailed weekly tables I have assembled (see the image of the Maharashtra table). For the whole country, what the districts tell us about the monsoon so far is a very much more detailed and insightful tale than the typical offering by the Meteorological Department (see India sub-divisional map). These weekly district tables are coded using my modified monsoon methodology, geared towards aiding decisions for local administrations especially for prolonged arid conditions leading to drought.
Electricity as fundamental right and energy convenience as the basis of ‘development’ in Bharat and in India. If this is what Piyush Goyal means when he says his government is “is committed to ensure affordable 24×7 power” then it will come as yet another commitment that supports energy provision and consumption as the basis for determining the well-being of Bharat-vaasis and Indians (the UPA’s Bharat Nirman was the predecessor). But the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power, Coal and New and Renewable Energy cannot, using such a promise, ignore the very serious questions about the kind of ‘development’ being pursued by the NDA-BJP government and its environmental and social ramifications. [This article is also posted at the India Climate Portal.]
Goyal has said, via press conferences and meetings with the media, that the NDA government is committed to ensuring affordable power at all times (’24 x 7′ is the expression he used, which must be banished from use as being a violent idea – like nature our lives follow cycles of work and rest and ’24 x 7′ violently destroys that cycle). Goyal has promised, pending the taking of a series of steps his ministry has outlined, that such a round the clock provision of electric power will be extended to “all homes, industrial and commercial establishments” and that there will be “adequate power for farms within five years”.
Some of the very serious questions we raise immediately pertain to what Goyal – with the help of senior ministry officials and advisers – has said. The NDA-BJP government will spend Rs 75,600 crore to (1) supply electricity through separate feeders for agricultural and rural domestic consumption, said Goyal, which will be used to provide round the clock power to rural households; and (2) on an “integrated power development initiative” which involves strengthening sub-transmission and distribution systems in urban areas. This is part of the “transformative change” the ministry has assured us is for the better. Goyal and his officials see as a sign of positive transformation that coal-based electricity generation from June to August 2014 grew by nearly 21 per cent (compared with the same months in 2013), that coal production is 9% higher in August 2014 compared with August 2013, and that Coal India (the largest coal producer company in the world which digs out 8 of every 10 tons of coal mined in India) is going to buy 250 more goods rakes (they will cost Rs 5,000 crore) so that more coal can be moved to our coal-burning power plants.
We must question the profligacy that the Goyal team is advancing in the name of round the clock, reliable and affordable electricity to all. To do so is akin to electoral promises that are populist in nature – and which appeal to the desire in rural and urban residents alike for better living conditions – and which are entirely blind to the environmental, health, financial and behavioural aspects attached to going ahead with such actions. In less than a fortnight, prime minister Narendra Modi (accompanied by a few others) will attend the United Nations Climate Summit 2014. Whether or not this summit, like many before it, forces governments to stop talking and instead act at home on tackling anthropogenic climate change is not the point. What is of concern to us is what India’s representatives will say about their commitment to reduce the cumulative impact of India’s ‘development’, with climate change being a part of that commitment. [Please see the full article on this page.]
Ignoring the torpor of the summer heat, the India Meteorological Department has dusted off the statutory paragraphs that give us in the sub-continent a first indication of what monsoon for the year may be like. The result this year, both scintillating pages, has been made that much more gripping by the inclusion of El Niño. The IMD’s treatment of the normal variables whose interplay determine the nature of any monsoon is perfunctory – which is surprising as the regional and international earth observation networks spare no detail and tend to inundate us with data and analysis.
But the IMD, especially for the south-west monsoon, has always preferred to be spartan. Perhaps there is some philosophical dictum that us non-meteorologists have yet to grasp, and if so then the only criticism we may be permitted, if the IMD had its way, its to ask for more such teaching. But the IMD does not have its way, and we publics whose monies support its work must continue to demand from the recalcitrant department better, much better, application and communication of its work.
The official release, ‘Long Range Forecast For the 2014 Southwest Monsoon Season Rainfall’, is delivered to us by the IMD, Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES). There is the usual paragraph claiming a profundity of observation and of the IMD being a standard-bearer of superior method. “Operational models are critically reviewed regularly and further improved through inhouse research activities,” says the IMD. But what we still have, in a tradition that is probably three generations old, is the two stage forecast (one in April, the second in June). [Here is the release in Hindi.]
I think this proves how out of step the IMD – and the Ministry of Earth Sciences (grand title isn’t it?) – is with what citizens of India experience in their villages, towns, fields and hills. For, the south-west monsoon no longer arrives in the first week of June, and it no longer begins to depart by mid-September. Climate change began to alter that comfortable rhythm years ago, but the IMD’s forecasting grindstone is the same, never mind how many new earth observation satellites India pelts into orbit.
With all these provisos, stated and implicit, what has the IMD told us?
First, that the “experimental ensemble forecast based on IMD seasonal forecast model (SFM) indicates that the rainfall during the 2014 monsoon season (June to September) averaged over the country as a whole is likely to be 88% ± 5% of long period average (LPA)”. This means that in places it could be as low as 83% of the average, and no more than 92% of the average. Combine this with the assessments about the 2014 El Niño and we can see why, far from being satisfied that the IMD is considering both the monsoon and El Niño, we ought to monitor independently both and force the IMD to become more responsive.
Second, that “the experimental forecast based on the coupled dynamical model forecasting system suggest that the monsoon rainfall during the 2014 monsoon season (June to September) averaged over the country as a whole is likely to be 96% ± 5% of long period model average (LPMA)”. This is a more hopeful set, but also shows that the IMD, by telling us of two different scenarios from two models, is hedging its forecast, which is not what its job is.
Third, the IMD has said “the experimental five category probability forecasts for the 2014 monsoon season rainfall over the country as a whole using the experimental dynamical prediction system are 33% (deficient), 20% (below normal), 24% (normal), 6% (above normal) and 17% (excess)”. This means, using this ‘probability’, that a normal monsoon for 2014 has only a 1-in-4 chance whereas a deficient monsoon (that is, total rain less than 90% of the long period average) has a 1-in-3 chance.
This is a prognosis that stands between serious and grim, for a 10% drift towards the lower side of an expected average, for any of our 36 agro-meteorological regions, can spell ruin for farmers and severe hardship for water consumers. How have central and state governments prepared for such a forecast? We have no information, most likely because there has been no preparation (there are contingency plans for the chronically drought-prone districts, but these are normally triggered when there is an official declaration by the state government that there are conditions of drought in parts of the state). Elections or no elections, El Niño cares not, and it is up to the state governments to make preparations for a monsoon 2014 whose delivery of water already looks uncertain.