Friday, July 20, 2012

Indian scientists try to crack monsoon source code

Ross Colvin and Jatindra Dash in Reuters: Scientists aided by supercomputers are trying to unravel one of Mother Nature's biggest mysteries -- the vagaries of the summer monsoon rains that bring life, and sometimes death, to India every year.

In a first-of-its-kind project, Indian scientists aim to build computer models that would allow them to make a quantum leap in predicting the erratic movements of the monsoon. If successful, the impact would be life-changing in a country where 600 million people depend on farming for their livelihoods and where agriculture contributes 15 percent to the economy. The monsoon has been dubbed by some as India's "real finance minister".

"Ultimately it's all about water. Everybody needs water and whatever amount of water you get here is mainly through rainfall," said Shailesh Nayak, secretary of the Earth Sciences Ministry. India typically receives 75 percent of its annual rain from the June-September monsoon as moisture-laden winds sweep in from the southwest of the peninsula.

The importance of the recently launched five-year "monsoon mission" has been underscored by this summer's patchy and below-average rains, which have provoked much anxious sky-watching and fears of drought in India's northwest, even as floods in the northeast displaced 2 million people and killed more than 100....

Punjab rice fields during the 2011 monsoon, shot by Sanyambahga, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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