With three-quarters of the monsoon season over, India is staring at a drought-like situation for the second year running. The country as a whole received only 77 per cent of the normal rainfall in August, and September is unlikely to be any better.
“This is not unexpected. Our forecasts had indicated that the second half of the monsoon season was likely to be drier than the first half. And that is what seems to be happening. The dry spell that we have seen in August is likely to continue in September as well,” D Sivananda Pai of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
The low rainfall has started affecting storage levels in the reservoirs, which are critical not just for irrigation but also for power generation and even drinking water supply. In the middle of August, the cumulative storage in the 91 major reservoirs fell below normal levels for the first time this year. Levels have been falling consistently after that.
At the end of last year, the storage in these reservoirs was 87 per cent of the storage at the corresponding time last year, and 88 per cent of average of the last ten years.
The chief villain is the El Niño, the equatorial Pacific phenomenon, which is finally having its full impact on the Indian monsoon.
“Since there were no SST (sea surface temperature) anomalies in the Indian Ocean, this monsoon has been totally controlled by El Niño. September is also likely to bring below normal rainfall. As a result, the seasonal average rainfall at the end of the season may be below 15 per cent of normal,” J Srinivasan, chairman of the Divecha Centre for Climate Change at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, said.
At the end of August, overall deficiency in rainfall was 12 per cent, with only eight of the 36 meteorological sub-divisions in the country getting normal or more rainfall.
India had received deficient rainfall in the last monsoon season as well, overall rains in the four-month monsoon season being 12 per cent below normal.
This year, June produced more than expected rainfall, 16 per cent excess, mainly due to the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO). But July and August have remained deficient. The first half of August was 26 per cent deficient.