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THE NEWS

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has finally declared that weak El Nino conditions are prevalent in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. these conditions are likely to persist in the early summer season and likely to weaken thereafter.

KEY-ASSESSMENTS MADE BY THE IMD:

  • The Indian Met Department has assessed that weak El Nino conditions may develop in the coming months, and ‘continue for a short period’.
  • Currently, neutral El Nino conditions prevail in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
  • Prime influencer: El Nino (warming of the Central/Eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean) and alter-ego La Nina (cooling of the same ocean waters) is considered to be one of the prime influencers of the Indian monsoon, though without the proven one-to-one connection.

WHAT OTHER AGENCIES SAY?

Weather agencies in other countries had declared weak El Nino conditions at the beginning of 2019.

  • In January, Japan’s Meteorological Agency (JMA), (also the Asian arm of the World Meteorological Organization), said El Nino conditions were prevailing and that there were 80 percent chance of an El Nino phenomenon staying till spring season of 2019.
  • The Climate Prediction Centre (CPC) of the National Weather Service in the United States (US) also concluded, around the same time, that weak El Nino conditions had formed in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

IMPACTS ARE ALREADY VISIBLE:

  • The preliminary impact of a weak El Nino can already be seen with the rising temperatures and heat waves across the country.
  • In early March, the heat wave season began in many areas of Tamil Nadu, coastal Andhra Pradesh and Rayalaseema.

Maximum temperature:

  • On March 6, Tamil Nadu’s Dharmapuri station recorded a maximum temperature of 40.2 degree Celsius which is the highest temperature ever recorded at the place in March.
  • The previous record was 40 degree Celsius, recorded in 1996.
  • In Andhra Pradesh, while two meteorological stations at Tirupati and Cuddapah in the Rayalaseema region recorded maximum temperatures of 40.4 degree Celsius and 40 degree Celsius, five other stations recorded temperatures above 38 degree Celsius.

Heat waves:

  • In late March an unusual heat wave affected Kerala, taking weather forecasters by surprise.
  • It has killed four people till date and almost 300 people have suffered from sunburns.
  • Now the heat waves have spread to Gujarat, Maharashtra and Odisha as well.
  • Heat waves are the third highest cause for deaths among natural disasters in India, after lightning strikes and earthquakes.

UNDERSTANDING THE GEOGRAPHY OF ‘EL NINO’:

What is it?

  • El Nino, originally refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific.
  • In simple terms, it is a part of a routine climate pattern that occurs when sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean rise to above normal levels for an extended period of time.

When it is declared?

  • An El Nino is officially declared if the temperature of the eastern tropical Pacific rises 0.5 degree Celsius above the long-term average.
  • The extreme El Nino year of 1997-98 saw a rise of more than 3 degree Celsius.

When it kicks in:

  • During an El Nino, the trade winds weaken in the central and western Pacific.
  • Surface water temperatures off South America warm up, because there is less upwelling of the cold water from below to cool the surface.
  • The clouds and rainstorms associated with warm ocean waters also shift toward the east.
  • The warm waters release so much energy into the atmosphere that weather changes all over the planet.

Impacts:

  • Typical El Nino effects are likely to develop over North America during the upcoming winter season, which includes warmer-than-average temperatures over western and central Canada, and over the western and northern United States.
  • Wetter-than-average conditions are likely over portions of the U.S. Gulf Coast and Florida, while drier-than-average conditions can be expected in the Ohio Valley and the Pacific Northwest.
  • The presence of El Nino can significantly influence weather patterns, ocean conditions, and marine fisheries across large portions of the planet for an extended period of time.

La Nina:

  • The opposite of El Nino is La Nina, it is the situation when sea surface temperatures in the central Pacific drop to lower-than-normal levels.

INDIA & EL NINO:

  • El Nino is the unusual warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean, it disrupts global wind patterns affecting climatic conditions in tropical areas like Africa, sub-tropical areas like India as well as the extra-tropical areas like North America.
  • In India, there is a relationship between El Nino events and hotter than usual summers along with a decrease in rainfall during the monsoon.
  • Drought: Most of the time, these events have also led to drought conditions. In fact, 6 of the worst droughts since 1871 have been triggered by El Nino, the most recent being in 2009.
  • Monsoon: The weak El Nino might have an effect on the onset and intensity of monsoon this year, an update on which is expected soon from the government of India.
  • Low rainfall: Between 1880 and 2014, around 90 percent of all evolving El Nino years have seen below normal rainfall, and 65 percent of them experienced droughts.
  • Heat waves: The last El Nino event that ended in 2016 had lasted for two years and caused heat waves all around the world, including India. The heat waves in 2015 and 2016 killed more than 2,500 people in India, and have been attributed to climate change, suggesting that El Nino was intensified by global warming.

HOW EL NINO AFFECTS THE WORLD?

  • Coral bleaching: The severe El Nino caused massive coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef and droughts in parts of Africa, South America and South East Asia.
  • Drought: Countries including Australia, Indonesia, Brazil, India and Africa experience drought conditions because moisture-bearing storms are shifted away from these areas. In 2018, Australia underwent its worst drought in living memory, in regions like the New South Wales the drought was the worst in 400 years.
  • Storms: Likewise Brazil, Argentina, South China and Japan can receive an increase in moisture-bearing storms that cause long periods of heavy rains and flooding.
  • Imbalance: Additionally, there is also a decrease of tropical storms in the Gulf of Mexico and Western Atlantic and an increase of tropical storms in the Pacific.

CONCLUSION:

The forecast of IMD would mean a lot to the economy as a negative monsoon, triggered by El Nino, could bring a drought. The chance of El Nino occurring during monsoon is pegged at over 70 percent. It is expected to affect Indian monsoon strongly due to the absence of a counter effect of Indian Ocean Dipole. Though it is a well-known fact that this phenomenon cannot be avoided but mitigation of greenhouse gases would likely reduce its occurrence, magnitude and duration, and at most decrease some extremes. We can together increase resilience to cope with its effects for events which magnitude is within local coping ranges.

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