Robots to swim in Bay of Bengal for monsoon study

NEW DELHI (TIP): To better understand and predict South Asia’s seasonal monsoon, scientists are getting ready to release robots in the Bay of Bengal in a study of how ocean conditions might affect rainfall patterns. The monsoon, which hits between June and September, delivers more than 70%of India’s annual rainfall. Its arrival is eagerly awaited by hundreds of millions of subsistence farmers, and delays can ruin crops or exacerbate drought. Yet, the rains are hard to predict and depend on the complex interplay between global atmospheric and oceanic movements in ways not yet fully understood. They can be affected by weather phenomena such as El Nino, and could become even more erratic with climate change and even air pollution. “It’s such a complex system,” said oceanographer Ben Webber at the University of East Anglia’s School of Environmental Sciences, the UK university leading the $11 million project. Still, “the processes that occur in the Bay of Bengal are not well understood.” One of the biggest mysteries is how the water currents work, with colder and fresher water streaming into the northern part of the bay, while warmer and saltier water flows in further south from the Arabian Sea.

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