A vendor holding an umbrella waits for customers at a fruit and vegetable stall in the suburb of Bandra in Mumbai. (Photographer: Karen Dias/Bloomberg)

India Likely To See A ‘Near-Normal’ Monsoon This Year, Says Met Department

India is likely to receive a near-normal monsoon this year, the India Meteorological Department said today, providing some relief to worries regarding an intensifying El Nino.

The weather forecaster said that while El Nino conditions do persist as of now, they are likely to weaken as India progresses into the rainy season, between July and August. “Generally, El Nino is associated with below-normal rainfall but there's no one-to-one association between El Nino and monsoon rainfall,” the Met Department said.

Here are the key highlights:

  • Expect monsoon to be 96 percent of long-period average, with model error of +/- 5 percent.
  • Indian monsoon long-period average is 89 centimetres.
  • Don’t expect adverse effect of El Nino.
  • Expect well-distributed rainfall scenario; will be helpful for farmers in the kharif season.
  • Will release second stage monsoon forecast in the last week of May or first week of June.

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 termed a ‘deficient’ monsoon, while 90-96 percent is considered ‘below normal’. An average between 104 and 110 is stated ‘above normal’ and anything beyond 110 is referred to as ‘excess’.

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. Summer rainfall and its distribution largely determine crop output and is among the most important factors in guiding food inflation.

The department will announce the monsoon onset date by May 15, it said.

What is El Nino?

The 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 Indian sub-continent.

Earlier this month, private weather forecaster Skymet said the monsoon is more likely to be below normal this year with some chances of a drought due to intensifying El Nino conditions.

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

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