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Business News/ News / India/  India monsoon under a cloud as El Nino returns

New Delhi: El Nino climate conditions, associated with the warming of sea surface temperatures, have developed over the equatorial Pacific Ocean, triggering concerns over extreme weather events worldwide and a weak monsoon in India. 

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in its monthly outlook on Thursday, said El Nino conditions are expected to gradually strengthen into the winter. “Weak El Nino conditions developed in May over the equatorial Pacific Ocean with above-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs). Such temperatures sustained up to June with wind parameters supporting the emergence of El Nino," the NOAA said.

NOAA’s climate prediction centre estimates an 84% chance of a moderate or higher strength El Nino by winter, with a 56% likelihood of a strong El Nino formation.

Historically, moderate to strong El Nino conditions during the fall and winter months result in wetter-than-average weather from southern California to the Gulf Coast. On the flip side, these conditions often lead to drier-than-average climates in the Pacific Northwest and the Ohio Valley.

Record-breaking average SSTs have been recorded this summer, peaking at 20.9°C on June 6, surpassing the previous year's record of 20.7°C.

India is likely to bear the brunt of El Nino's impacts with a delayed and weak monsoon rain this season.

In May, the India Meteorological Department predicted that June, which contributes to 16-17% of total monsoon rains and is essential for the sowing of Kharif crops, would likely see drier conditions across most regions. 

The department also suggested that due to El Nino, India's northwest could see below-normal rainfall at 92% of the long-period average (LPA) during the June-September season.

El Nino, a climatic event characterized by warmer-than-average SSTs in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator, tends to occur every 2-7 years on average. The climate impact of El Nino extends well beyond the Pacific Ocean.

"Depending on its strength, El Nino can cause a range of impacts, such as increasing the risk of heavy rainfall and droughts in certain locations around the world," said Michelle L'Heureux, climate scientist at the Climate Prediction Center. "Climate change can exacerbate or mitigate certain impacts related to El Nino. For example, El Nino could lead to new records for temperatures, particularly in areas that already experience above-average temperatures during El Nino."

A single El Nino event may not result in all these impacts, but El Nino increases the odds of them occurring, he added.

The anticipated persistence of El Nino also contributed to the 2023 Atlantic and Eastern Pacific Hurricane Outlooks issued by NOAA last month.

The World Meteorological Organisation on 17 May said there is a 66% likelihood that annual global surface temperature will temporarily exceed 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels for at least one of the next five years, with El Nino and climate crisis fueling the temperature rise and Arctic heating.

The last time the world saw its hottest year on record in the presence of El Nino was in 2016. 

Puja Das
Puja Das is a New Delhi based policy reporter covering food, farm, fertiliser, water, and climate policies for Mint. Puja reports on farmers' distress and how the agriculture sector is impacting India's rural economy and policy initiatives to help meet the pledges made at COP27. Puja holds a post-graduation degree in Broadcast Journalism from the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media, Bangalore.
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Updated: 09 Jun 2023, 05:36 PM IST
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