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Walker Institute leads joint UK/India project to predict the Indian Monsoon and the effects of climate change – University of Reading

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Walker Institute leads joint UK/India project to predict the Indian Monsoon and the effects of climate change

Release Date 22 January 2007

The University of Reading's centre for the study of climate change will share in a £5million Government award to help further research links with India.

The Walker Institute for Climate Change will now work with the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune, western India, leading a four-year project to predict what will happen to the Indian monsoon as global warming begins to bite.

The project is one of only six major awards from the British Council UK India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI).

Professor Julia Slingo, Director of the Walker Institute and the UK leader of this project said: "We aim to combine India's detailed knowledge of the monsoon with the UK's capability in climate prediction to significantly accelerate the development of skilful monsoon forecasts.

"This is essential for India as its economy develops rapidly, and the need to build resilience to the vagaries of the monsoon rains become more pressing. Ever since the 19th century the UK has had a keen interest in the climate of India, and we are very excited that the UKIERI has provided us with this opportunity to work together even more closely."

The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, announced the winning projects at the India Awards Ceremony in New Delhi on Thursday (January 18 2007.) The Walker Institute - which is funded by the University of Reading and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) – will officially receive the award from Bill Rammell MP, Minister for Lifelong Learning, at the UK Awards Ceremony tomorrow evening (January 23 2007) in London.

Professor Slingo added: "This is a vital project for India. The monsoon rains provide nearly 80% of the year's rainfall and they are critical for agriculture, for drinking water and for industry which often relies on hydroelectricity for power. So India's economy and societal infrastructures are finely tuned to the remarkable stability of the monsoon, and vulnerability to small changes in monsoon rainfall is very high.

"In the future, the pressures of an increasing population will bring additional stresses on society and the environment, with serious implications for water resources, health and food security. So, the possibility that the monsoon may become less stable as a result of climate change has serious consequences for India."

Scientists have been struggling for more than a hundred years to predict the monsoon. Last summer, a moderate drought was forecast because of the developing El Nino in the tropical Pacific, yet in the end rainfall was near normal. The severe drought in 2002 – the 5th driest year since modern records began in 1871 – hit agricultural production hard, resulting in a 3% drop in Indian GDP, and yet was not foreseen.

Most climate models suggest that India will be around 10 per cent wetter by the end of the 21st century because of global warming, and that rainfall could indeed be more variable from year to year. And it's not just what will happen in the rainy season that matters. During the dry pre-monsoon months of April and May, the incidence of extreme heat is likely to increase significantly, leading to greater mortality.

How can we trust these predictions when there is such limited skill in forecasting the monsoon for the coming season? Scientists agree that we do not yet have a full understanding of the processes going on, and that climate models perform poorly in this critical yet challenging region where the ocean, atmosphere, lowlands and mountains all interact.

Notes to Editors:

(1) For more information and to arrange interviews please contact: Kathy Maskell or Maria Noguer on 0118 3787380. Alternative number: 0118 378 8315.

(2) The UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) was developed following the announcement by Tony Blair in September 2005 of a commitment from the UK of £10 million, to facilitate a step-change in research and education cooperation between the UK and India. See www.ukieri.org.

(3) More than one hundred bodies expressed an interest in the Major Awards – which are worth up to £500,000 each

(4) The lead contacts for this project are:

In the UK: Prof Julia Slingo, Walker Institute at the University of Reading the Walker Institute website

In India: Prof B N Goswami, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology

(5) Other partners are:

In India:

Indian Meteorological Department

Indian Institute of Technology

National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting

Indian Institute of Science

In the UK:

Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, Met Office,

European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts

(ECMWF)

Climatic Research Unit (CRU)

(6) The Walker Institute contribution to the project is part of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science – Climate Programme Visit NCAS.

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