Generally, El Nino and the Indian Monsoon rains are inversely related. Trade winds coming from South America normally blow westward towards Asia during Southwest Monsoon. Warming of the Pacific Ocean results in weakening of these winds. Therefore, moisture and heat content gets limited and results in reduction and uneven distribution of rainfall across the Indian sub-continent.
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Does El Nino always lead to droughts in India?
The most prominent droughts in India, six of them, since 1871 have been El Nino triggered droughts, including the recent ones that occurred in 2002 and 2009. Nevertheless, it is important to note that all El Nino years do not lead to drought in India. The year 1997-98 is a stark reminder as it was a strong El Nino year but that did not cause drought in India, in fact, rainfall was in excess. On the other hand, a moderate El Nino in 2002 resulted in one of the worst droughts.
Going by historical data of 135 years from 1880 to 2014, about 90% of all evolving El Nino years have led to below normal rainfall and 65% of evolving El Nino years have brought droughts. From this fact, one thing is clear that El Nino years adversely affect the weather in India in terms of Monsoon rain, with very few exceptions. During an El Nino year, the rainfall is generally below the normal average, which has its negative bearing on crop production.
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