El Niño disrupts Indian agriculture, causing drought, lower crop yields, and economic impacts. Effective management and adaptation strategies are crucial to mitigate its effects.
El Niño, also known as the Pacific Warm Episode is a rare meteorological occurrence that is characterised by an unusual warming of the Pacific Ocean. Due to the disruption of regular weather patterns, this climatic event has important ramifications for India, a nation that depends significantly on monsoon rains for agricultural survival. The central and eastern Equatorial Pacific experiences an increase in sea surface temperatures during an El Niño episode, which has an effect on global climatic parameters such as temperature, precipitation, and air circulation. This article aims to delve into the intricate dynamics of the Pacific warm episode and shed light on its detrimental effects on Indian agriculture, as well as the broader economic implications it entails.
- Occurrence: El Niño events occur under specific circumstances in the tropical Pacific Ocean. They are characterised by a sustained increase in sea surface temperatures of more than 0.9°F (0.5°C) for at least five consecutive three-month seasons. These events are associated with changes in atmospheric pressure known as the Southern Oscillation. El Niño conditions develop when trade winds weaken or reverse, causing warm surface waters to move eastward toward the coast of South America. This disrupts the normal patterns of oceanic and atmospheric circulation and can have significant impacts on weather and climate patterns worldwide.
- Importance Of Monsoon Rainfall: Monsoons, which bring essential rainfall from June through September, are key for India’s agriculture and economy. They promote crop development, restock water reservoirs, and maintain water supplies in rural and urban areas. The timing of planting and harvesting is determined by monsoon patterns, which has an impact on food output and rural income. Getting enough rain encourages economic growth across several sectors.
- Impact On Monsoon & Agriculture: Monsoon season plays a critical role in agriculture, particularly in rice production, but it is susceptible to disruption by the El Nino weather pattern. El Nino, characterised by reduced rainfall, can lead to drought conditions and below-average precipitation during monsoon season in certain regions of India. This, in turn, negatively impacts crop yields, agricultural productivity, and food prices. The consequences of crop failures, water shortages, and decreased farmer incomes reverberate throughout India’s rural economy, affecting employment and overall food security
Pacific warm episodes have fluctuated in size and influence on regional weather patterns over the past 60 years. Weak to moderate incidents occurred in 1951, 1953, and 1969; severe episodes occurred in 1957 and 1972 and moderate to strong episodes occurred in 1963 and 1965. intense episodes occurred in 1991 and 1997, while the severity fluctuated between mild and intense between 1982 and 1987. Small occurrences in 2002 and 2015, together with weaker outbreaks in 2004 and 2009, occurred in the early 2000s. These incidents demonstrate the unpredictability of Pacific warm episodes and the complexity of the climate and weather systems they have an impact on.
Here are the adverse impacts of Pacific warm episodes on the economy:
- Relationship Between Inflation & Food Prices: A prominent effect of the Pacific warm episode is the establishment of food shortages and subsequent price increases as a result of decreased crop yields and supply chain disruptions. Both rural and urban populations are impacted by this issue, with a focus on vulnerable areas that spend a sizable portion of their income on food costs. During these times, the Indian government faces a significant problem in managing food imports, distribution networks, and supply.
- Agribusiness & Trade: During the Pacific warm episode, agricultural yields and quality are lowered, which has a negative impact on the agro-processing industry, food producers, and exporters. As agricultural exports decline, this directly affects India’s trade balance and foreign exchange revenues.
- Water & Energy Resources: Insufficient monsoon rainfall lowers reservoir water levels, which has an impact on both agriculture systems and hydroelectric power production. In turn, this leads to an insufficient supply of electricity, making it necessary to rely on unconventional energy sources to meet the demand. Wide-ranging effects of water scarcity include negative effects on individuals, businesses, and farmers as well as decreased agricultural output and slowed global economic expansion.
The Indian government has launched several programmes and tactics to combat the effects of Pacific warm episodes on agriculture:
- Drought-Tolerant Crop Varieties: Significant strides have been achieved by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in creating drought-tolerant crop types that use less water and are able to grow in areas with little rainfall. These specifically designed crop varieties are aggressively promoted to help farmers manage water stress brought on by unfavourable weather. Adopting these drought-tolerant varieties is a calculated move towards strengthening the adaptability of agricultural systems and assisting farmers in coping with the problems brought on by water constraint.
- State Government Initiatives: State governments have proactively implemented measures to address the challenges posed by El Niño. Notably, the Punjab government has initiated training sessions to promote the adoption of efficient farming techniques such as Direct Seeding of Rice (DSR) among farmers. In Maharashtra and Karnataka, the use of drip irrigation has been made mandatory for sugarcane cultivation, ensuring optimal water utilisation.
- Crop Insurance: The implementation of initiatives such as the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) and similar programs, aimed at augmenting crop insurance coverage, provides farmers with a heightened sense of security and equips them with essential support in mitigating the adverse financial repercussions stemming from crop failure.
- Innovative Technologies: The combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT) systems enables the use of real-time data, encompassing current weather conditions, soil moisture levels, and crop requirements, to provide precise and timely irrigation recommendations. Utilizing these cutting-edge technologies, farmers can increase crop yield through optimized water management, made possible by precise data analysis, while also efficiently conserving water resources.
El Niño & La Niña On Global Weather Patterns
El Niño & La Niña are two phases of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a climatic pattern. They exhibit opposite extremes of sea surface temperatures (SST) and atmospheric pressure patterns in the tropical Pacific Ocean and are closely related. The central and eastern central Equatorial Pacific warms during El Niño, while the opposite is true during La Niña. The duration of ENSO events, which typically occur every 2–7 years, can range from 9 months to 2 years. Changes in rainfall, temperatures, and atmospheric circulation are just a few of the effects that these phenomena have on global weather patterns.
El Niño presents serious difficulties for India’s agricultural industry, which impact millions of people whose lives depend on farming. A proactive approach is needed to boost climate-resilient agriculture, stimulate the use of drought-tolerant crop types, and guarantee that farmers have appropriate insurance coverage to combat the negative effects of lower rainfall, crop failure, water scarcity, and inflation in food costs. To lessen the effects of warm episodes and promote sustainable agricultural practices in India, cooperation between stakeholders including the government, agri-extension workers, grassroots organisations, and investors is essential.