The Indian monsoon, upon which rides the lives of a billion people, as also a significant chunk of the country's GDP, is the hottest topic of discussion in the country at the moment. And if forecast from the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) is to be believed, most hearts in the country will be heartened by the southwest monsoon, scheduled to arrive in India in three weeks' time.
On 18 April, the IMD released its first forecast regarding the southwest rains, and said India will experience a "normal" monsoon. It expected 96 percent rainfall over the next four months, with a margin of five percent.
As of 14 May, the southwest monsoon has advanced into some parts of southeast Bay of Bengal, Nicobar Islands, entire Andaman Sea and parts of north Andaman sea. The IMD forecast stated that the conditions are favourable for further advance of southwest monsoon into some more parts of the region during the next 72 hours. Heavy to very heavy rainfall is predicted at isolated places over Andaman and Nicobar islands.
This would have come as especially good news given the state of acute drought large parts of India find themselves in. The IMD had also said the rainfall will be evenly distributed across the country.
More importantly, however, the IMD also discounted the possibility of El Nino hampering the monsoon season, saying the storm could only build towards the end of the season. A strong El Nino could have played havoc with India's Kharif crop season, which would have been particularly problematic since a majority of India's agricultural production consists of rain-fed Kharif crops like rice, maize, bajra, soybean, groundnut, cotton, sugarcane, jute, tur, urad, moong, etc.
El Nino is a phenomenon associated with warming of Pacific waters, but despite the IMD initially declaring its chances to be low, it cannot be discounted altogether. Ministry of Earth Sciences secretary Madhavan Nair Rajeevan said the climatological models indicate that the situation predicted in April could improve slightly. "There are modest chances of occurence of El Nino. However, we need to see the data of May after which will come up with the second forecast in the first week of June," he said.
Moreover, the monsoon would not only be above average, it may also start earlier than normal. PV Joseph, an acclaimed researcher and former director of IMD, told The Hindu Business Line that the monsoon may make landfall in Kerala by 25 May. Joseph, who, the report said, is often consulted by the IMD, based his assessment of the onset prospect on the observed "pre-monsoon rain peak" phenomenon, represented by a band of raining cloud extending from Kerala eastwards into the Bay of Bengal.
On Wednesday, however, the IMD went a step even further, revising its earlier forecast and now predicted a "higher than average" rainfall. Speaking to the news agency IANS, IMD director general KJ Ramesh said an update will be known only in June.
"From the current trend, where the strong El Nino is weakening, the monsoon may increase. We will still have to wait and watch though," Ramesh said.
According to the IMD official, the actual status of rainfall depends on the eventual status of El Nino and the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) activities. The pattern suggests that a moderate or strong El Nino and a positive IOD results in good rainfall. El Nino is a climatic phenomenon which is the warm phase of the cycle in the Pacific Ocean and IOD is a climate event occurring over the equatorial Indian Ocean. Both impact the monsoon.
Meanwhile, private weather forecaster Skymet said that the monsoon would be not more than 98 percent, or in normal conditions around 97 percent. "However, there are no chances of a 100 percent rainfall," Mahesh Palawat, director Skymet, told IANS.
He added that the season will be good for the farmers anyway. "There are no heavy pre-monsoon rains to destroy the wheat during harvest season, and by June, the time of planting the paddy, rainfall would range from good to moderate," Palawat said.
He added that while eastern and central India would see normal monsoon, the pattern in northwest region — Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and parts of western Uttar Pradesh — where monsoon had been below normal for past two years, will see a comparative weaker monsoon.
"But these areas have irrigation facilities, which would balance the water consumption with the rainfall," Palawat added.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: May 14, 2017 16:38 PM