Monday, March 19, 2012

Importance of Monsoon Forecast for India:

Indian economy is basically an agriculture based, and agri business and economy depend a lot on the South West Monsoon. Agriculture contributes a major part to the GDP.
Hence, getting information and forecast of the Monsoon to the farmers and concerned departments well in advance is of prime importance. The agri industries need to plan cropping patterns and farmers need to plan purchase and storage of seeds and fertilisers.

Now, IMD issues its first SWM forecast in mid April. The April forecast indicates the likely amount of rain throughout India , on the whole, and does not detail its distribution region wise. 
A forecast of regional distribution is necassary for water management and reservoir capacity storage. 
The second forecast and rain estimate is issued in June. By that time, sowing is already complete, and an adverse situation could be disastrous. Saving water stressed seedlings becomes a priority with urgent irrigation. The SWM is half over by then.

Vagaries' Views:

The SWM forecast should be issued earliest by begining April. It could be made by analysing the weather developing situation as on that date in early April, and susequently monitor the developments as they happen and issue comments on how the monsoon is likely to progress.  The  Monsoon Watch series in Vagaries begins with this concept..and charting the progress periodically, the Monsoon Watch Series indicates the +ves and the -ves in the ensuing proress. 
Initially Vagaries (MW Series) forecasts only the arrival date. And that is of prime importance. A belated advance could be fore warned, and help the farmer in deleaying the sowing and saving his crops. Or later, a prolonged withdrawal could be bad for the crops too. 

The quantum is taken up later on.
Though a proper estimate of quantum of rain and regional distribution must be estimated. If, for example, we have 120% of the normal precipitation, that is 20% excess, in say the western state of Gujarat, and say, 80% normal, or 20% deficient in another state, IMD would declare a "normal" monsoon. That is because it takes the figures from the country as a whole. This, I feel depicts a wrong picture.

The most dangerous, or risky, is the " break Monsoon" in the middle of the season. This has to be estimated and informed as correctly as possible, as it holds the key to proper crop and water planning.
In such cases the agriculture ministry must be prepared to support proper irrigation and supply in July or August.
For such forewarnings, the IMD issues a forecasted estimate by the time the Monsoon is half over.

Now, recently,The Japanese Agency for Marine Earth Science and Tech. and another international agency IRI at Columbia, have forecasted a below normal SWM for 2012. A third, U.K Met office sees the chances of a normal Monsoon at only 40%. In fact, they have forecasted a slow down in July.

Whether true or false, our Govt. should take note of this seriously, and be prepared with the necassary steps to be taken. We just cannot wait till the IMD issues its "vague" forecasts. 

IMD maintains that it (SWM) cannot be forecasted so early, and that the Indian Monsoon system is too complicated. But let us understand, these foreign agencies have a track record.

In contrast, just last year, IMD had issued 10 forecasts. (April, June, 4 regional forecasts, on Aug 1st and on September 1st). Out of these 10, 7 were off the mark and 3 were in line.

We cannot take risks with such an important event (SWM). An event that makes or breaks Indian Agriculture and Economy.


Anonymous said...

Dear Rajesh,
A very timely note,the need of hour is to get timely forecasts and ensure these forecasts have an impact in the planning and contigency programs.

I hope and pray we have a decent SWM, if it turns out to be a drought year it will be the fourth in a decade(2002, 04, 09 and 12)

Regards, Ananth

Anonymous said...

But Mr.Rajesh,
Dont you think, IMD has guns pointed at its head, because it is the OFFICIAL forecaster for a real country.

While JAMSTEC and IRI are very good forecasting agencies with a proven track record, they are not responsible for what they predict. IMD does not enjoy such a privilege.

This isn't to say that mediocrity should be accepted, but that it is a thankless job.

rajesh said...

anonymous:I agree that IMD is the official forecaster. But,it should forecast fearlessly, and more, you correctly mention, it has a responsibility to perform.