Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Should we expect a drought ?

With the monsoon weakly hitting the Indian coast that too four days late & with the Meteorological Deptt., unlike what it did in late April this year, not allaying fears of El Nino disrupting normal monsoons in our country, are we to expect further woes added to the already dismal economy of our country? Well the answer seems to be unknown at this point in time. The Met. deptt, has taken a very cautious second stand, keeping in mind its change of stance from April this year, when it had confidently declared that the El Nino phenomenon will not affect our monsoon this year.

Drought is a climatic aberration characterized by scarce supply of moisture resulting from sub normal rainfall, erratic rainfall distribution, higher water need or a combination of all the three factors. It normally leads to widespread crop failure, unreplenished ground water resources, drying up of lakes and rivers, shortage of drinking water and other allied difficulties.

One naturally wonders what is this El Nino thing. To put it more appropriately, the El Nino  /La Nina-Southern Oscillation or ENSO is an ocean-atmospheric phenomenon that occurs in a cycle. La Nina, is one part of the cycle. It brings about a decrease of 3-5°C in sea surface temperature across the Equatorial Pacific Ocean and it is favorable for monsoons in India. El Nino, which is La Nina’s counter-phenomenon, is often accompanied by drought in India and heavy rainfall in the Pacific coast of Latin America. Simpy put the Southern Oscillation is the recurring pattern of reversing surface air pressure between the eastern and western tropical Pacific; when the surface pressure is high in the eastern tropical Pacific it is low in the western tropical Pacific, and vice-versa. Because the ocean warming and pressure reversals are, for the most part, simultaneous, scientists call this phenomenon the El Nino/Southern Oscillation or ENSO for short. South American fisherman have given this phenomenon the name El Nino, which is Spanish for "The Christ Child," as it comes during the time of the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child-Christmas.

The ENSO is a quasiperiodic climatic phenomenon. Quasiperiodicity is the property of a system that displays irregular periodicity. Quasiperiodic behavior is a pattern of recurrence with a component of unpredictability that does not lend itself to precise measurement. Quasiperiodic is a term used to denote oscillations that appear to follow a regular pattern but which do not have a fixed period.

If, God forbid, droughts occurs due to El Nino, it could worsen the food inflation. The agricultural sector's growth has dived by 3 per cent in the last quarter and the economy is bleak. A drought can make things worse. In 2009, there was a massive deficit in rainfall and economists allege that because of government's unpreparedness, the drought was mismanaged which led to food inflation. One of the logical counter measures against drought would be to enhance imports of food crops, essentials such as potatoes and onions, since the common man has always been the hardest hit by the price rise of crops such as these. It'd be a real challenge for the increase imports because of the decline in value of our "Rupee". This could mean further widening of the fiscal deficit. It is understandable that climatic & weather phenomenon are largely out of the control of Governments, but it should nevertheless be ready with proper planning and effective implementation mechanisms in place to fight the drought's effects.

The only hope is the study of the Indian summer monsoon over the country, by India Meteorological Department which shows that all the drought years are El Nino years whereas all the El Nino years are not drought years indicating thereby that various other factors also equally influence the monsoon over the sub-continent. Hopefully those "other factors" will come to the rescue of this year's Indian monsoon.


  1. We are having a tough water situation here in Bangalore. With the rains not yet coming, and the water table reaching new lows, we seem to be in for trouble this year.

  2. Did not know about El Nino phenomenon earlier. Thanks.

    Electricity and water are going to be the biggest hurdles for us to to progress in the next few decades.

  3. I did not want to read this, I fear just by reading or talking about this will make it happen, and we will continue to thirst for water!

    Hope the "other factors" will cause some relief.

  4. Cheers. The rains are here after all

  5. Droughts, some call it famines, are man-made calamities. We are constantly facing varieties of them. Today’s Hindustant Times reports, Mumbai’s water-supplying lakes are going drier than 2011. Where is the water going? Construction mania! It is crazy skyscrapers that are being built around here.