By Indraneel Pinnamshetty
The Indian Meteorological Department’s (IMD) recent forecast of monsoon at 98% of long-average period is a heavy relief to the drought-hit farmers in India. With eased concerns over the El Nino weather conditions, the chief of IMD, reflecting the views of policymakers, is certain about higher growth prospects for Indian agriculture in the current year.
Employment of IMD’s new forecasting methodologies
It is not just the arrival of a normal monsoon this year that seems exciting at the moment, but also the deployment of a new methodology to forecast monsoon in India. The use of this new methodology, called dynamical forecasting, breaks away from the century-old tradition of using the British-developed statistical system for forecasting. Often considered as the ‘Gold standard’ of meteorology, the dynamic modelling used by India has been sourced from the US and is being tweaked according to the Indian monsoon.
The employment of dynamical forecasting comes at a time of proven failure of the conventional methods to predict monsoon failures. For instance, IMD couldn’t predict the oncoming droughts in the years 2002, 2004 and 2009. Also, from 1988 to 2010, the IMD has been able to successfully predict the monsoon only nine times which translates to a success rate of a mere 40 percent.
Will the new model catalyse the growth rates?
The dynamic model, also known as the Coupled Forecast System, is based on faster computing to improve short-range forecasts. It provides the flexibility to upgrade forecasts for specific regions and enables collation of data on local as well as global weather patterns to simulate a forecast for a specific duration. With these advanced features coupled with a proven record of the model to accurately predict the drought period in 2015, the Secretary of Ministry of Earth Sciences is confident about the reliability of the results produced from the dynamic model.
More than 60 percent of farms in India are dependent on the monsoon. In such a piteous state, skilful and timely predictions of rainfall can go a long way in boosting agricultural production as well as water harvesting management. According to Reuters, better forecasting can help India raise its farm output by nearly 15 percent, by helping farmers tweak the best time to sow, irrigate or apply fertilisers to crops. Such an increase in production has a direct bearing on increasing India’s growth rates. Also, better forecasts resulting in better farm outputs can stabilise the inflation level and thereby provide for effectual transmission of monetary policies in the economy.
However, predicting monsoons in India is a tricky job. Since India falls in the tropical region, the fluctuations in the weather conditions are more frequent than anywhere else in the world. With changing weather predictions, the parameters also frequently change, thereby having an effect on the forecast. After factoring in the wild weather patterns in the region and the use of a novice forecasting model, India would have to wait and see to fully analyse the accuracy of the predictions.
Solving the migration crisis
India, in the past couple of years, has experienced irregular droughts leading to a consistent deficit of water for crop irrigation and a subsequent fall in farm incomes as farmers don’t realise their harvest. With shrinking farm incomes, farmers are often forced to migrate to urban in search of employment. The existing loop — droughts leading to low crop production, leading to low farm incomes, leading to farmer migration — could be potentially dismantled with the IMD’s recent forecast of a normal monsoon. A recent Mint analysis comes off as a case in point, to precisely demonstrate how higher rainfall in a region leads to lower seasonal migration.
The resulting low farmer migration will automatically strengthen rural demand as more people would be in possession of a higher purchasing power capacity. According to a study by CRISIL, rural demand consists of more than half of the entire private consumption in the economy. With such an increased private consumption, at a period of low global growth, India can be pivotal to lift the global slump which has been in place since the financial crisis of 2008.
Featured Image Credits: TheCoolist
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