The India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Monday predicted that this year’s southwest monsoon rainfall to be ‘near normal,’ at 96% of the benchmark long-period average (LPA), in what augurs well for the country’s foodgrain production, but not necessarily for farmers’ income as high production in recent years have co-existed with rural distress.
In the past two years, too, IMD’s first forecasts were of normal monsoon – rainfall range of 96-104% of LPA — but in both the years, rains turned out to be below normal – 95% in 2017 and 91% in 2018.
It is another matter that since distribution of the rains were good, the crops were robust in both the years – an all-time high 284.8 million tonne in 2017-18 crop year and 281.4 million tonne in 2018-19.
It may also be noted that IMD suggested a forecast possibility ‘deficient’ (<90%) or ‘below-normal’ (90-96%) monsoon of an aggregate of 49%. Private forecaster Skymet had earlier predicted the impending monsoon rainfall to be ‘below normal’ , quantitatively 93% of LPA.
The seasonal rainfall this year is likely to be 96% of LPA with a model error of plus or minus 5%, M Rajeevan, secretary at ministry of earth sciences, said, adding that the distribution would be “as good as in 2017.”
India had seen below deficient monsoon in 2014 and 2015 where the 2013 was one of ‘above normal’ rainfall.
There was a major deficit in northeast region during last year monsoon, Ramesh said, adding that since the region receives high level of rainfall in quantitative term, the deficit did not impact much. Except for Gujarat and parts of Maharashtra, other regions had received good rainfall in 2018.
He also said the weather bureau would release the next update on the monsoon in June with detailed forecast on each region as well as for every month after studying the pattern of rain.
Skymet has predicted lower rainfall in Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, parts of Maharashtra and north interior Karnataka during monsoon. About the crucial north-western region comprising Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, which is considered the food bowl of India, the available data are not sufficient to come to any conclusion, according to Skymet’s chief executive Jatin Singh.
According to DS Pai, head of monsoon forecast division of IMD, the ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) condition is though positive, the weak El Niño (currently at 0.9 degree) will further weaken during the monsoon season which is good for India.
El Niño, which is associated with warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, normally brings lower monsoon rainfall, though there is no one-on-one relationship. It develops when the surface temperatures of the the Pacific rise above normal.