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Skymet rejects official forecast of likely drought

The outlook by Skymet should help allay concerns of farmers who have already been hit hard by unseasonal rains earlier this year and have been on edge ever since the government forecast what could be India's first drought in six years.

Krishna N. Das        Last Updated: June 5, 2015  | 13:33 IST
Skymet rejects official forecast of likely drought

Rejecting projections for a drought by India's meteorological office, the country's only private weather forecaster Skymet said there will be a good monsoon season this year as the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) phenomenon counters an El Nino weather event.

The outlook by Skymet should help allay concerns of farmers who have already been hit hard by unseasonal rains earlier this year and have been on edge ever since the government forecast what could be India's first drought in six years.

Skymet, which says its predictions have been correct for the past three years, forecast rains at 102 per cent of the long-term average over the June-September monsoon season, versus India Meteorological Department's (IMD's) 88 per cent.

"The El Nino threat remains, we do not deny that," Skymet's chief meteorologist, G.P. Sharma, said. "But the positive IOD effect could bail us out."

Partly due to the emergence of an El Nino, or the rise of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific that lead to dry weather in Asia, India's monsoon rains have already been delayed by about a week and could arrive on Friday.

Sharma is, however, hopeful that a "positive IOD" this year will slightly offset the impact of an El Nino.

The IOD phenomenon is characterised by higher sea-surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean.

A positive IOD creates a barrier in the eastern Indian Ocean and all the southwesterly winds blow towards the Indian sub-continent, causing rains there but leading to droughts in parts of Indonesia and Australia, according to Skymet.

In the years 1967, 1977, 1997 and 2006, a positive IOD brought adequate rains to India despite the emergence of an El Nino, Sharma said.

Some IMD officials, however, said chances of a positive IOD were slim and that El Nino was gaining ground. In 2009, an El Nino contributed to India's worst drought in four decades.

Farmers would be hoping Skymet's prediction comes true as about half of India's farmland lacks irrigation. Agriculture accounts for about 15 percent of the $2 trillion economy while three-fifths of the country's population of more than 1.2 billion depend on farming for their livelihood.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has sought to dismiss fears of a drought, saying rainfall will likely to be deficient only in regions with good irrigation facilities and that there were enough grain stocks to keep food prices under check.

(Additional reporting by Ratnajyoti Dutta)

(Reuters)

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