Scientists from the UK and India will be releasing robots into the Bay of Bengal in a study that aims to produce better predictions of India’s monsoon.

They will also be collecting atmosphere measurements from the air by flying a plane packed with scientific equipment.

The seasonal monsoon, which hits the region between June and September, delivers some 70 percent of India’s surface water. Hundreds of millions of subsistence farmers depend upon its arrival, and delays can devastate crops or worsen drought.

Over half of India’s farms do not have irrigation, making them extremely dependent on the heavy rainfall between June and September.

Due to that, the multimillion-dollar study of the monsoon may have profound implications. Currently, the rains are hard to predict. Their arrival depends on a complex interplay between global atmospheric and oceanic movements that is not yet fully understood.

Scientists from the University of East Anglia (UEA) said Tuesday that underwater robots would be released from a ship into the bay later this month. The robots would monitor ocean temperatures and currents.

Image via University of East Anglia.

“We will be combining oceanic and atmospheric measurements to monitor weather systems as they are generated. Nobody has ever made observations on this scale during the monsoon season itself so this is a truly ground-breaking project,” said the study’s lead researcher, Professor Adrian Matthews, of UEA.

“We are aiming for a better understanding of the actual physical processes. What we have now are imperfect models for predicting monsoon rainfall when it hits land, so this will create better forecasts.

“Ultimately, the goal is to improve the prediction of monsoon rainfall over India. This will be enormously beneficial for India’s subsistence farmers, who need to know when and how much rain will fall. This would then enable them to change the timing of how they plant their crops.”

At the same time as UEA unleashes its underwater robots, University of Reading scientists and Indian climate experts plan to carry out the plane operation.

“We hope that it will also help to mitigate international disasters caused by extreme rainfall and flooding,” notes Professor Matthews. “We also hope to better understand how the southern Asian monsoon affects the whole world’s climate.”

Image via AP Images.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

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