Accurate and timely weather forecasts could be a game-changer in uplifting the livelihood of crores of Indian farmers hit by climate change-induced erratic weather patterns. They can help farmers make smarter and more lucrative farming decisions, a study by the University of Chicago has found.

Climate change is making weather more variable, with rainfall patterns becoming less predictable and extreme temperatures occurring more frequently. Highly variable weather makes it challenging for farmers to prepare for the coming season because they don’t know if this year will be like the last.

However, the study claims that highly accurate forecasts (at least 4 to 6 weeks ahead) can help farmers decide how much to plant, what to plant, or whether to plant at all.

Conducted in 250 villages of Telangana, the study says farmers disagree widely about when the monsoon will start, which highlights the need for timely forecasts. It argues that accurate predictions can not only safeguard countless livelihoods but also boost agricultural productivity across the board.

Nearly two-thirds of the global population live in monsoon-affected regions, it says.

“Farmers tailor their planting decisions based on what they think the weather —and in many parts of the world, the monsoon — will be like, but climate change is making the monsoon and other weather patterns increasingly difficult to predict,” says study co-author Fiona Burlig, an assistant professor at the Harris School of Public Policy and deputy faculty director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago’s India office.

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