Chances of El Nino conditions, which could limit rainfall vital for the economy, have kept the government on tenterhooks, even though India’s monsoon covered large swathes of the western coast and entire Northeast on Wednesday, aided by favourable conditions.
“The monsoon is most likely to be normal but the El Nino effect will only be known by the third week of June,” Union science minister Ashwani Kumar said on Thursday.
Normal rains, which act as a strong check on inflation through good farm output, will make economic recovery easier for Asia’s third-largest economy, whose gross domestic product grew 5.3% from a year ago in the first three months of the current year, the slowest quarterly pace in almost a decade.
El Nino — or “little boy” in Spanish — is a weather glitch marked by an abnormal warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean and is known to trigger weaker rains and even droughts, such as the one in 2009. Yet, in 1997 — an El Nino year — India managed to get normal monsoon.
El Nino is the opposite of La Nina, literally “little girl”, which results in robust rains, like last year’s monsoon. According to several global weather forecasts, waning La Nina conditions have currently turned “neutral”. However, because sea surface temperatures are seen rising, the neutral conditions are expected to change and, by August, give way to El Nino conditions.
India’s drought in 2009, the worst in three decades, was triggered by an El Nino. The country has had two straight years of normal monsoon since then, helping take up food output to a record high.
The US National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administra-tion, in a May advisory, stated that “at least half of the dynamical models predict development of El Niño conditions by (JJA) June-July-August”.