New Delhi: A second international research agency has confirmed that El Niño, the weather phenomenon associated with scanty rainfall and drought in India and other parts of Asia, is weakening, but warned that it could still have an impact on monsoon precipitation in the country.
The International Research Institute of Climate and Society at Columbia University in the US said anomalies in sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean had receded, and the El Niño pattern was in the borderline between weak and neutral.
“The models are still forecasting an El Niño coming in the next month or two and lasting at least till the end of this calendar year," Tony Barnston, chief forecaster at the institute, said on Thursday. “The reason for that is because below the surface of the ocean, we still have an accumulation of positive heat content, especially near the surface, especially in the eastern part of the tropical Pacific, and that should lead to some warming in the surface."
But the weakening El Niño is not necessarily good news for the Indian monsoon.
“Even though we don’t have a developed El Niño as of yet, we will face the climate effects of the El Niño this year," said Barnston. “In India we are still expecting to see below normal rainfall in the western peninsula this year, as we’re still anticipating at least a weak El Niño or possibly a moderate El Niño event."
On Tuesday, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said El Niño may be weakened by a cooling of the Pacific Ocean in the past month and “it is increasingly unlikely to be a strong event".
Rainfall in India this June-September monsoon has been below normal, but has picked up in the past week after central and north-west India received heavy showers. While the monsoon had covered the entire nation by Thursday, rainfall this season has been less than 34% of the 50-year average.
Indian policymakers have been worried about the impact of a poor monsoon on foodgrain production and on inflation, which has been persistently high.