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El Nino gaining; India keeps fingers crossed
Published on 9 Jul. 2009 11:32 PM IST
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In a development that could have a bearing on the remaining monsoon season, Australia’s weather bureau on Wednesday reported an increased El Nino weather pattern and said it was a medium-strength event at the moment. ``We are warming reasonably rapidly. The models tend to suggest something reasonably warm,’’ Andrew Watkins from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology was quoted by agencies as saying, as Australia issued its latest El Nino report. How fast the warming takes place over equatorial Pacific Ocean will, among other factors, determine how the monsoon fares in India. On June 24, the Indian Met department had forecast a `near normal’ monsoon with 93% rains in the country while north India was predicted to receive a worryingly low 81% of normal rain. El Nino, meaning `little boy’ in Spanish, is a name given to abnormal warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean which wreaks havoc on weather patterns across the Asia-Pacific region. A strong El Nino can lead to monsoon failure in Asia and droughts in Australia as well as wetter-than-normal weather in parts of South America. ``Our prediction was based on the assumption that El Nino would set in gradually and its effect on the southwest monsoon in India will start showing only by September. If the warming takes place faster, the monsoon may weaken earlier than expected and there could be less rain than what we have predicted,’’ D S Pai, director of IMD Pune’s National Climate Centre, told TOI. Pai added that there’s was yet no clear evidence to suggest that El Nino will set in faster than what the IMD had accounted for. The Australian bureau didn’t say how fast El Nino was expected to gather strength but said there was ``very little chance of the current development stalling or reversing’’. Pai said, ``These are weather phenomenon and we can never be sure.’’ ``El Nino is the name given to warming of the ocean. When it couples with the atmospheric southern oscillation, it begins to affect our part of the world. We don’t know when the coupling will take place,’’ Pai said. El Nino hasn’t been formally declared yet. For that, higher than normal temperatures - of the order of 0.5 degree Celsius or higher - have to be recorded over the Pacific for three successive months. The weather anamoly is developing in the midst of the worst global recession since the Great Depression of the 1920s. Coincidentally, the last severe El Nino was in 1998, when the Asian financial crisis was at its peak. Reports say the 1998 El Nino killed over 2,000 people and caused billions of dollars worth of damage to crops, infrastructure and mines in Australia and Asia.

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