By Meghna Malik
El Nino, the global weather phenomenon which has been known to cause floods and famines across the world, has officially arrived. On March 5, 2015, the forecasters at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center issued an El Niño advisory after which the El Niño Southern Oscillation Tracker status has been raised to El Niño WATCH.
However, since the El Niño is currently in the neutral phase and has arrived much later than predicted, it is not expected to be a strong event this year.
WHAT IS THE EL NINO?
El Niño is a weather phenomenon which causes an abnormal, prolonged warming of the sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. This phenomenon occurs every few years and lasts from nine months to two years.
El Niño weakens the trade winds and causes changes in the Southern Oscillations. As a result, it has a huge impact on the rainfall patterns across the world.
This phenomenon is known to affect rainfall in India during the monsoon months (July – September). Warming of the Pacific Ocean results in the weakening of the trade winds that normally blow westwards from South America towards Asia. As a result, there is a reduction in rainfall across the Indian subcontinent.
However, not every El Niño results in a deficient monsoon season. There is only a 16 per cent chance of a monsoon ending in a drought when the Pacific is neither unusually warm nor cool.
In the last 140 years, over half of the major droughts in India have coincided with the El Niño Southern Oscillation events. Since 2000, there have been four El Niño years (2002, 2004, 2006 and 2009), and three of these (except 2006) resulted in drought years in India.
This year, because of its unusual timing, the El Niño is not expected to have a big impact on Indian monsoon season.
Though the Indian Meteorological Department has not issued any official announcement about El Niño yet, Dr D. Sivanand Pai, head of the Long Range Forecasting division told The Indian Express: “We will issue the first monsoon forecast by mid-April, as it is too early to predict anything right now. Since the El Niño is in a neutral phase right now, the ocean temperatures and rainfall patterns are near the long-term average. There is a good possibility that India might see a normal monsoon this year,” he added.