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Saving India's crops with better weather forecasts

November 11, 2021

Climate change is making India's weather more unpredictable. This can be devastating for farmers and their crops. But now researchers in Germany are lending a hand with more accurate forecasts.

A farmer in a soybean field with workers during harvest time in India
During harvest time, Ravi Patidar meets with workers in his soybean fieldImage: Hardik Contractor

New monsoon forecasts in India

In India, climate change is making monsoons more erratic. This is bad news for the country's more than 100 million farmers, who will need extra help with figuring out what to plant and when to harvest to avoid floodwaters. 

For Ravi Patidar, a farmer from the central Indian village of Janakpur, the local weather forecasts were not accurate enough. So he went online and found Elena Surovyatkina at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. 

By analyzing temperature curves at just two points on the subcontinent, the Russian researcher has been able to predict the onset of the monsoons in central India 40 days ahead of time with very little margin of error.

But her message doesn't get the reach it could, and many farmers are still left to deal with Mother Nature alone. Now, a number of agencies are working together to spread the word and help farmers be better prepared.

Monsoon expert Elena Surovyatkina from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Elena Surovyatkina of the Potsdam institute has been able to predict the onset of the monsoons in IndiaImage: Wolf Gebhardt/DW

Project name: Climate Capacity Building: Risk Anticipation and Minimization

Project goal: To predict the start and end of the southwest monsoon 40 or even 70 days ahead of time. 

Project partners: The monsoon forecast project is part of an EPICC project, which supports risk prediction and mitigation measures in Ethiopia, Brazil, India, Peru and Tanzania. Elena Surovyatkina is working with various Indian partners like the India Meteorological Department, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, National Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting and the Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University. She also employs the platform from the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Science.

Project budget: The project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI) and has received around €4.8 million from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment and the Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). Surovyatkina's work at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) has received financing for 42 months.

Project duration: January 2018 – December 2021, extended to August 2023

A film by Wolf Gebhardt and Hardik Contractor