People walk though a market as vendors hold umbrellas in Cherrapunji, Meghalaya (Photographer: Sanjit Das/Bloomberg)

Monsoon May Be Below Normal This Year With 15% Chances Of Drought, Says Skymet

Monsoon rains are more likely to be below normal this year with warmer Pacific waters even raising drought fears, according to private weather forecaster Skymet.

The seasonal rainfall could be at 93 percent of the long-period average (+/-5) through June to September, it said at a press briefing in New Delhi.

The monsoon is considered ‘normal’ if the average rainfall is between 96 and 104 percent of the long-period average. Anything less than 90 percent is ‘deficient’, while 90-96 percent is ‘below normal’. Between 104 to 110 is ‘above normal’ and beyond 110 is ‘excess’.

Currently, the chances of a below-normal monsoon stand at 55 percent while that of an above normal monsoon are nil, the agency said. Skymet attributed the prediction to a growing El Nino, the higher-than-normal surface temperature in tropical Pacific Ocean, which has been responsible for several droughts in India’s history. “Chances of a drought are at 15 percent.”

The six most prominent droughts in India since 1871 were triggered by El Nino, according to Skymet’s website, including the ones in 2002 and 2009.

The monsoon was below-normal last year after two successive years of normal rains. A good monsoon, which waters more than half of India’s farmland, is crucial to boost consumption and the economy. Monsoon rain in India and their distribution largely determine crop output and are among the most important factors in guiding retail food inflation.

Other Key Highlights

  • June rainfall is expected to be 77 percent of long period average, at 126 mm against 164 mm, according to Skymet.
  • Chances of below normal rain in June is 75 percent, normal at 15 percent and above normal at 10 percent.
  • For July, rains are expected to be at 91 percent of LPA i.e. 263 mm against normal rains of 289 mm.
  • East and Central India, as well as a few areas of South India, could see less rains in 2019.

The El Nino phenomenon is inversely related with a good rainfall season as warming of the Pacific Ocean results in weakening of the southwest monsoon winds. Therefore, moisture and heat content gets limited and results in reduction and uneven distribution of rainfall across the sub-continent.

Last month, Skymet warned of increasing chances of an El Nino, leading to concerns of a below-normal monsoon. “It looks like the El Nino is progressing,” GP Sharma, vice president of meteorology at Skymet, had told BloombergQuint.

Also read: Following Sixth Hottest Year Since 1901, Warnings Issued For 2019  

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