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Friday, August 29, 2014

Grain bowl staring at severe drought

Rain Deficit Grew In Last 20 Days, May Not Improve
The failure of the monsoon over large parts of the country in August has raised the spectre of 2014 being declared a drought year.

As of Thursday , the overall deficit was 18%, with ab out 36% of the meteorological subdivisions facing moderate to severe drought.

A drought year is declared when the nationwide monsoon shortfall is more than 10%, and 20% to 40% of the country faces drought conditions. Rain Spotting, P 15 India's grain bowl belt of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh is reeling under a severe drought, with a major monsoon bailout looking unlikely at least in the next week or so.

Punjab and Haryana have run up rain deficits of 65% and 66%, respectively, and are currently the only two states where rainfall has been categorized as `scanty' -that is, 40% or less than normal since the onset of monsoon on June 1.Western UP is only slightly better with a current shortfall of 58%.

IMD defines severe drought in a subdivision if it recieves less than 50% of normal rainfall.

In at least 26 districts across this belt, rainfall has been less than 30% of normal. This includes Barnala in Punjab which has received just 10% rain and Rohtak which was got 11%.

While IMD had predicted that the region would end up with the worst rain deficit in the country, the situation turned critical in the last 20 days. This is when the monsoon weakened, including a seven-day spell from August 15 when it went into a break because of a sustained weather disturbance in the Indian Ocean.

During this weak phase, central and northwest India went largely dry while the east, northeast and the coastal belt continued to get rain. The rain deficit in central India grew. But in Punjab, Haryana and western UP, an already bad monsoon year became worse.

The outlook for the next week or so doesn't look too good. "While this region received scattered rains on Thursday due to the southward shift of the monsoon trough, there is at the moment no strong system in the vicinity that can cause persistent rain," said B P Yadav, director, IMD.

Met officials said a substantial dent in the rain deficit of northwest India can come only if a succession of low pressure systems forms in the Bay of Bengal strong enough to reach so far inland. Thus far, these systems mainly benefitted central India during the active monsoon phase from mid-July to August first week.

The growing deficit has belied IMD's expectations as well. The department in its latest monsoon forecast barely a month ago, had predicted near normal rains for August and September. While downgrading the overall monsoon forecast to 87% (from 93% predicted earlier), it said the two months together were likely to get 95% rainfall of the long term average (with a model error of 8%).

That forecast appears optimistic now. As of August 28, the all India weighted average rainfall for the month stands at 207.9mm against a normal of 261mm for the entire month. This means the deficit, with three days of the month remaining, stands at more than 20%. The rain gap in northwest India as a whole, stands at 34%.


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