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Twin typhoons threaten monsoon after July revival

New Delhi, Aug. 1: India’s monsoon rainfall deficit has improved dramatically to 22 per cent below average from a 43 per cent deficit a month ago, but two typhoons in the western Pacific Ocean may draw atmospheric moisture eastward and away from the region, meteorologists said today.

Rainfall figures released by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) suggest that 54 per cent of India’s landmass received deficient rainfall between June 1 and July 31, in contrast to a 90 per cent zone of deficiency during June alone.

But two typhoons — Halong, making its way towards Japan, and Nakri, moving towards South Korea — are drawing moisture eastward from South Asian seas and could lead to a slight weakening of the monsoon activity in the coming days, a senior scientist said.

“We expect a slight weakening — this is particularly likely to occur because the monsoon is already weak this year,” said D. Sivananda Pai, director of the long-range forecasting division at the IMD, Pune.

The IMD has predicted that only 13 of India’s 36 meteorological subdivisions will receive widespread rainfall over the next week. These are: Gangetic Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, eastern Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Saurashtra, Goa, Chhattisgarh, coastal Karnataka, Kerala and eastern and western Madhya Pradesh.

Earlier this year, the IMD had predicted in a long-range forecast that India would receive only 93 per cent of its long-period average monsoon rainfall — that is, witness a 7 per cent deficit — in 2014.

A slight rise in sea surface temperatures (SST) in the Pacific Ocean observed earlier this year had worried meteorologists. The Pacific SST rise — also called El Nino — has been associated with poor monsoon over India.

But El Nino has so far not had a significant impact, Pai said. While SSTs in the eastern Pacific are slightly high, those in the central Pacific — which are considered more relevant to India — have actually dipped slightly, he said.

Crop meteorologists say the rainfall patterns thus far suggest that the deficit monsoon this year is likely to have only a “limited impact” because of a mix of well-planned contingency measures and irrigation.

“Our contingency measures have been improving year by year,” said Kamlesh K. Singh, head of the agrometeorology services at the IMD, New Delhi.

“Many farmers know exactly what to do when the rains are four weeks late, six weeks late or eight weeks late.”

Southwestern parts of Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh are among regions still awaiting good rainfall for transplanting paddy.

“These areas have time --- they can wait until August 10 ---- but after that, farmers will need to consider contingency crops such as pulses or oilseeds,” an agrometeorology expert said.

Haryana, Punjab and western Uttar Pradesh have among the highest rainfall deficits — 47 per cent below normal to 58 per cent below normal.

But agrometeorology experts say that the irrigation networks in these states will ensure there is no compromise on grain yield.