A dreaded weather pattern that triggers dry weather and droughts in India is set to end its two-year run between April and June, raising hopes of a normal monsoon to tame a prolonged agrarian crisis.
Eight international climate models predict the end of the El Niño, a global weather glitch whose effects can ripple around the world, ahead of official monsoon forecast by the India Meteorological Department next month.
The government is banking on a normal June-September rainy season to lift agriculture out of crisis. Rains have been deficient for two years now, depressing farm incomes and leaving food-bowl states parched.
“The 2015–16 El Niño is now at moderate levels, and is likely to end in the second quarter of 2016,” an Australian weather bureau forecast said. The Indian Met office said it agreed with the assessment that El Niño would turn neutral in the monsoon months.
The news comes days after a spell of rain, hail and snow damaged winter crops such as wheat in key food-producing states across north and central India, triggering fears of higher food prices amid a deepening farm crisis. The western disturbance-induced rain flattened the wheat crop less than a month before harvest in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
Global forecasters point to a cooling Pacific, which means the El Niño breaking down. The models predicting an end to El Niño are of the UK Met Office, Australian bureau of meteorology, Meteorological Service of Canada, EU Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts and Japan Meteorological Agency, Meteo-France, apart from two the US’s NASA Global Modelling and Assessment Office and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. All of them agree the El Nino will be gone completely by July.
Last year, three spells of unseasonal rainfall between February 28-March 2, March 7-8 and March 14-16 destroyed crops in about 10 million hectares in about 150 districts, or about a quarter of the country.