Getting the monsoon forecast right is probably the India Meteorological Department’s (IMD’s) most significant job, but also its hardest. Year after year, the weather system that sustains most of the country defies all estimates, making forecasting somewhat a business of prophecy.
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This year has been no different: The predictions have been so wide off the mark that about 10 days ago, aggrieved farmers in Madhya Pradesh said they planned to sue the IMD because they had lost about 40% of their crop as the rain hadn’t arrived as forecast. A few years ago, farmers in Maharashtra filed a police complaint against the IMD, accusing the weather forecasting agency of “colluding with seed and pesticide manufacturers and inflating monsoon forecast figures”. But it’s not that the IMD isn’t working the uncertainty into its forecasts—climate change is altering the very nature of the Indian monsoon, which was always unpredictable, and it is likely to become even more erratic and destructive in time. This is what our cover story explores this week.
The monsoon has always been a source of fascination, celebrated in art, music, dance, literature and culture. Scientists too have fallen under its spell—they have tracked it, chased it, now they are even drilling beneath the sea to better understand how it behaves. Our story explains why this weather system, linked as it is to global climate patterns, is one of the biggest indicators of climate change and a pointer to our collective future.
Other stories in this issue also look towards the future. One of our columnists, moved by the achievements of the Refugee Olympic team, points out how they will come to embody the Games’ interlinked rings and the idea of togetherness more than anyone else. Elsewhere in the issue, in a long conversation, Sridhar Vembu, the co-founder of enterprise software maker Zoho, explains why he believes rural revival is the future. He discusses building a local WhatsApp as well as his social and economic experiment of setting up a company to serve the world in rural India, all while being bootstrapped.
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