It’s time to unfurl the umbrellas and bring out the raincoats in Tamil Nadu, as the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) expects the northeast monsoon to hit the state on Friday.
S Balachandran, Director of the Area Cyclone Warning Centre says that three conditions have to be met to declare the arrival of the northeast monsoon, “The southwest monsoon has to withdraw, easterly winds have to set in and the third condition is that rains have to be fairly widespread.”
The IMD declared on Wednesday that the southwest monsoon has withdrawn, and easterly winds have also begun blowing. However, Balachandran points out that rains received thus far have been scattered.
“The rains have started in the coastal region. But the rains elsewhere have been scattered. We expect to declare the onset of the northeast monsoon on Friday,” Balachandran said.
Normal monsoon predicted
Tamil Nadu receives 48% of its annual rainfall between October and December (Northeast monsoon season). Coastal districts like Chennai are especially dependent on the rains to tide over the dry summer months. While the IMD had predicted in early October that the northeast monsoon will be normal, weather bloggers have also given this year a positive outlook.
“I have waited till the last moment for rains to be confirmed and I need to change my outlook of the monsoon from negative to positive side for Chennai and Tamil Nadu. There is good possibility that all our water problems may be solved in this monsoon. There is going to be more water than we need at some places,” stated Tamil Nadu Weatherman, a blogger on Facebook.
If this prediction proves true, it will bring cheer to farmers and residents after the drought in Tamil Nadu in 2016, following the worst Northeast monsoon in 140 years.
Pradeep John, the man behind the Tamil Nadu Weatherman page, says, “November is crucial. Chennai has already got good rains during the Southwest monsoon. Two to three decent spells of 300mm of rain can change the water supply situation for the city. Next summer will not be like the summer of 2017.”
Another weather blogger, Srikanth, who runs the Chennaiyil Oru Mazhaikkaalam, observes that the month of November will see the influence of a phenomenon called MJO, a “moving disturbance of clouds, rainfall, winds, and pressure”.
“Whenever there is a constructive influence of MJO, we have had good monsoon years – like 2005 and 2015. The models indicate MJO’s entry into the Indian Ocean in the first week of November and it will be present until the fourth week,” says Srikanth.
Will Tamil Nadu see a Cyclone Vardah-like storm this year?
The northeast monsoon is also the season of cyclones, with tropical disturbances regularly occurring during the period. While the destruction unleashed by Cyclone Vardah is still fresh in the minds of Chennai citizens, both Pradeep and Srikanth point out that it is too early to predict storms. However, they both observe that models have predicted a possible cyclone in November.
“Today’s models show a reasonably strong disturbance crossing through the South China Sea near the Andaman Sea. It could develop into a cyclone around the first week of November. It is difficult to say where it will hit. It depends on the wind pattern. Also, the system will have to travel at least 700km from the Andaman Sea,” says Srikanth.
On Wednesday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami took stock of the preparedness of government officials ahead of the monsoon. With the AIADMK government under late CM Jayalalithaa being soundly blamed for being unprepared for the 2015 floods, a source told Times of India that Palaniswami has directed officials to be vigilant and ensure that Chennai’s water bodies do not breach.
The Chennai Corporation has also set up a round-the-clock control room, with 75 staffers from different departments working together to address complaints from the public.