For India which has been at the receiving end of the El Nino weather phenomenon since June 2023, good tidings have come from the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Climate Center. 

In its global prediction for the April-September period of 2024, the APEC Climate Center has forecast above normal rainfall for India during the South-West monsoon, which sets in on June 1. 

According to India Meteorological Department (IMD) sources, rainfall during the South-West monsoon would be over 100 per cent of the long period average.

“Enhanced probability for above-normal precipitation is predicted for the eastern off-equatorial North Pacific and the western off-equatorial South Pacific, and regions spanning eastern Africa to the western Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea,” the APEC Climate Center said.

Above-normal rainfall is expected for some regions of East Asia, South Asia, the tropical South Atlantic, and the Antarctic Ocean, it said in an indication of relief for India. 

45% rainfall deficient

Since the emergence of El Nino, which results in drought and prolonged dry periods in Asia, India has received deficient rainfall in the south-west and north-east monsoons besides winter. 

During the current pre-monsoon period, which began on March 1, at least 45 per cent of 711 districts from where the India Meteorological Department has received data has got either deficient or no rainfall. 

Though the APEC Climate Center has indicated above-normal South-West monsoon, there are no indications yet on the month-wise precipitation, which will likely be issued by India Meteorological Department next month.

The APEC Climate Center predicted above-normal rainfall for the region spanning eastern Africa to the Arabian Sea, India, the Bay of Bengal, and Indonesia, the Caribbean Sea, tropical North Atlantic, southern Australia, and southern South Pacific. “A tendency for above normal precipitation is expected for some regions of East Asia and northern Australia,” it said. 

CPC outlook

The APEC Climate Center ENSO (El Nino-Southern Oscillation) alert suggested “La Nina Watch”. “In February 2024, above normal sea surface temperature anomalies spanned the equatorial Pacific. The Nino 3.4 index is expected to be 0.7℃ for April 2024 and then gradually decrease to -1℃ for September 2024,” it said. 

The probability for ENSO neutral conditions is expected to be 60 per cent for April–June 2024 and then decrease. La Nina conditions are expected to emerge gradually and increase before becoming dominant (~64 per cent) for July–September 2024. La Nina brings heavy rains and floods in Asia, particularly India.

Meanwhile, the Climate Prediction Center (CPC), an arm of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said there is a 83 per cent chance for a transition from El Niño to ENSO-neutral by April-June 2024. It said there was a 62 per cent chance of La Niña developing in June-August 2024.

The CPC said below average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) emerged in the far-eastern Pacific, while positive SST anomalies have weakened across most of the Pacific since December 2023. 

“During the last four weeks, negative SST anomaly changes were observed over most of the equatorial Pacific, but were strongest in the far eastern Pacific,” it said in its weekly update. 

Impact on Indian agriculture

The US weather arm said recent values of the upper-ocean heat anomalies (near average) and thermocline slope index (slightly below average) reflect a weakening El Nino.

“The majority of models indicate El Nino will persist through March-May 2024 and then transition to ENSO-neutral during April-June 2024. After a brief period of ENSO neutral conditions, most models indicate a transition to La Nina around July-September 2024,” the CPC said. 

The emergence of El Nino has particularly affected Indian agriculture with crop output during kharif and rabi this year (July 2023-June 2024) estimated 1.4 per cent lower at 309.38 million tonnes (mt) compared with 313.55 mt last year. 

In particular, the production of rice, coarse cereals and pulses have been affected due to deficient rainfall under the impact of El Nino. 

(With inputs from Prabhudatta Mishra, New Delhi)