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What does El Nio more India and Its possible impact ?


Manoj Rawat | Head Agribusiness RBL Bank, Mumbai |

Manoj Rawat, Head- Agribusiness
RBL Bank, Mumbai

What are El Nio / La Nia / Southern Oscillation?
The term El Nio (Spanish for the Christ Child) was originally used by fishermen along
the coasts of Ecuador and Peru to refer to a warm ocean current that typically appears
around Christmas time and lasts for several months. Fish are less abundant during these
warm intervals, so fishermen often take a break to repair their equipment and spend
time with their families. In some years, however, the water is especially warm and the
break in the fishing season persists into May or even June. Over the years, the term El
Nio has come to be reserved for these exceptionally strong warm intervals that not
only disrupt the normal lives of the fishermen, but also bring heavy rains.

What is La Nia?
During La Nia, which is just the opposite of El Nio, less heating leads to colder sea
waters off western South America coast, thus making it a high pressure zone which
pushes the moist sea winds towards the Indian Ocean therefore, increasing chances of
normal or excessive rainfall in the Indian sub-continent.
Formation of El Nio

The formation of an El Nio is linked with the cycling of a Pacific Ocean circulation
pattern known as the southern oscillation. In a normal year, a surface low pressure
What does El Nio more India and Its possible impact ?

Manoj Rawat | Head Agribusiness RBL Bank, Mumbai |

develops in the region of northern Australia and Indonesia and a high pressure system
over the coast of Peru. As a result, the trade winds over the Pacific Ocean move strongly
from east to west.

In an El Nio year, air pressure drops over large areas of the central Pacific and along
the coast of South America. The normal low pressure system is replaced by a weak high
in the western Pacific (the southern oscillation). This change in pressure pattern causes
the trade winds to be reduced. This reduction allows the equatorial counter current
(which flows west to east) to accumulate warm ocean water along the coastlines of Peru
and Ecuador. This accumulation of warm water causes the thermocline to drop in the
eastern part of Pacific Ocean which cuts off the upwelling of cold deep ocean water
along the coast of Peru.

The development of an El Nio brings drought to the western Pacific, rains to the
equatorial coast of South America, and convective storms and hurricanes to the central

Monsoons are winds caused by the temperature difference between a land mass and the
adjacent ocean. Monsoons occur throughout the world -- parts of Africa, the Arabian
peninsula and Arizona and the neighboring regions of California and Mexico. But the
Indian monsoon -- which besides India, also affects other regions of south and southeast
Asia and Australia -- is the most monetarily important because of its profound influence
on the economy of India and neighboring countries. It is directly linked to the ENSO
phenomenon. In summer months, temperatures over much of India rise to as high as
110 degrees Fahrenheit while the Indian Ocean is much cooler. Consequently, the warm
air over the land rises and cooler moisture-bearing air blows in from the sea, bringing
heavy rains to the region.
What the Records Show?
Analysis by the India Meteorological Department shows that, of the 18 El Nino years
between 1880 and 2006, twelve coincided with deficient or below-normal rainfall in
India. This means that, for a third of the time, there was no correlation, and that has
resulted in some spectacularly wrong forecasts for the monsoon. More recent research
aimed at finding a more robust correlation indicates that not all El Ninos cause drought,
and only warming in the central Pacific correlates with drought in India while warming
in the eastern Pacific means a normal monsoon.
According to Historical data of 126 years (1880-2005), about 90% of all evolving El
Nio years have lead to below normal rainfall and 65% of evolving El Nio years have
brought droughts. However, one thing is clear that El Nio years do affect the weather
in India in terms of Monsoon rain. During this time, the rainfall is generally below
normal, which has its bearing on crop production.
What does El Nio more India and Its possible impact ?

Manoj Rawat | Head Agribusiness RBL Bank, Mumbai |

Here is a table showing the records of El Nio and La Nia years in the last decade.
Year Occurrence State Precipitation
2004 El Nino Drought -12%
2005 Neutral Normal +1%
2006 Neutral Normal +3%
2007 La Nina Excess +10%
2008 La Nina Above normal +5%
2009 El Nino Severe Drought -21%
2010 La Nina Normal 0%
2011 La Nina Normal +4%
2012 Mild El Nino Below Normal -8%
2013 Neutral Above Normal +6%
Here is a list of droughts taken place in India in last two centuries. Some of these have
been an outcome of the El Nio phenomenon.
Period Drought Years Number of Drought
1801-1830 1801, 1804, 1806, 1812, 1819, 1825 6
1831-1860 1832, 1833, 1837, 1853, 1860 5
1861-1890 1862, 1866, 1868, 1873, 1877, 1883 6
1891-1920 1891, 1897, 1899, 1901, 1904, 1905, 1907, 1911,
1918, 1920
What does El Nio more India and Its possible impact ?

Manoj Rawat | Head Agribusiness RBL Bank, Mumbai |

1921-1950 1939, 1941 2
1951-1980 1951, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1979 8
1981-2010 1982, 1986, 1987, 2002, 2004, 2009 6
Impact of El Nio on India
El Nio and the Indian summer Monsoon are inversely related. The monsoon is the
main source of irrigation for Indias 235 million farmers and planting of crops from corn
to soybeans are dependent on timely arrival of the seasonal rains as more than half of
farm land is rain-fed. Agriculture represents about 14 percent of Asias third-largest
economy, which is also the worlds second-largest producer of rice, sugar, cotton and
El Nio years directly impact Indias agrarian economy as their effect tends to lower the
production of summer crops such as rice, sugarcane and oilseeds. This in return causes
inflation to surge and lowers the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). India is the second
largest producer of rice and wheat in the world.

Though El Nio will affect the weather
worldwide, countries like India that are largely
dependent on Monsoon rain will bear the
maximum brunt of it. Rainfall is likely to be less
than Normal during southwest monsoon season
throughout the state and more than normal
during rabi season.

El Nio is not a desirable signal from the point of
view of total food grain production and
productivity as well in larger part of the state,
although the magnitudes vary geographically.

According to a media report, the US National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has
suggested increase in chances of an El Nio
weather by over 50%, while the Australian
Meteorological Bureau has put it at over 70%.
However reports the rain may be 96 percent of a
50-year average of 89 centimeters (35 inches) in
the June-September period. Actual rainfall may
be 5 percent more or less than the prediction.
What does El Nio more India and Its possible impact ?

Manoj Rawat | Head Agribusiness RBL Bank, Mumbai |

Reliable climate predictions may not be available immediately and it might take some
more time and until then, the necessity arises to identify some of the global parameters
like El Nio, which can be used as a signal to climate variability at least during some of
the years, even if not for all the years.

Some measures
1. Advocate intercropping systems with long duration base crop and medium to
short duration companion crop in mono cropped areas.
2. Adopt in situ moisture conservation practices and judicious use of fertilizers
with regard to timing and quantum
3. Rice may be cultivated under system of rice intensification (SRI) method during
kharif season.
4. Better pests management service for crops
5. Appropriate moisture conservation practices to be followed watershed
6. Judicious use of irrigation water so that the available water can be used in larger
7. Better use of micro-irrigation systems
There are increased signs of El Nio like conditions but its still not clear how strong it
will be. Going by the 50-year average the predicted rains is 96% and it is expected that
actual rainfall may be 5 percent more or less than the prediction. An El Nio has not
always resulted in weak monsoons in India and mitigating factors this year may include
comfortable reservoir water levels and excess food grain.
Manoj Rawat

The views expressed in this article are purely personal | Blog
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