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US to help India better its monsoon forecast

US President Barack Obama’s November 6-9 visit will roll out an expansive agricultural partnership that could give India a more accurate model to predict its dodgy monsoon. Those familiar with the developments are calling it Indian agriculture’s equivalent of “putting man on the moon”. Zia Haq reports.

india Updated: Nov 02, 2010 01:21 IST
Zia Haq

US President Barack Obama’s November 6-9 visit will roll out an expansive agricultural partnership that could give India — among other things — a more accurate model to predict its dodgy monsoon.

Those familiar with the developments are calling it Indian agriculture’s equivalent of “putting man on the moon”.

An increasingly truant southwest monsoon remains a big worry for the government, as two-thirds of Indians depend on farm income and 60% of India’s farmed areas remain outside its irrigation network.

Last year, the monsoon was 22% deficient, despite an initial normal forecast. The patchy rains had triggered the worst drought in three decades, raising food prices sharply.

The spadework for the monsoon mission began in July when Planning Commission member, K Kasturirangan, and secretary in the department of earth sciences, Shailesh Nayak, visit-ed the US National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. “The US model should be available to us by December,” Nayak told HT on Monday.

India homed in on the US model, called the “Couple Forecasting System”, for two reasons. One, it combines both oceanography and atmospherical sciences, unlike the Indian model that relies mainly on the former. Two, scientists feel the US model can be better adapted to Indian conditions.

Once access is granted, scientists from the Indian Council for Agricultural Research and Indian Space Research Organi-sation will team up with NOAA to fine-tune it to suit India’s needs. First, it should predict sudden breaks in monsoon cycle fairly accurately and, secondly, enable more short-term and localised predictions, such as district level predictions.