New Delhi/Pune, April 15: Amidst fears of a subdued monsoon this year due to a developing El Nino condition over the Pacific Ocean, the India Meteorological Department on Monday said that rainfall over the country as a whole during the four-month monsoon season would be ‘near-normal’.
In the first long-range forecast for this season, the IMD said rainfall during the season was likely to be 96 of the long period average, or LPA. The LPA, defined as the average of monsoon rainfall over a 50-year period between 1951 and 2000, for the country as a whole is 89 cm.
IMD also said that the possibility of monsoon rainfall being excessive or ‘above normal’ was very low. The forecast of 96 per cent is at the lower end of the band in which rainfall is classified as ‘normal’.
“The good news is that 2019 will have a near normal south west monsoon seasonal rainfall between June-September of 96 per cent of the long term average, with a model error of plus or minus 5 per cent,” M Rajeevan, Secretary of Ministry of Earth Sciences, said at a press conference.
While there are several factors that influence the Indian monsoon, the surface temperatures in equatorial Pacific Ocean is one of the most important ones. As of now, waters in that region of Pacific Ocean, off the west coast of South America, are slightly warmer than normal, a condition called El Nino, that is known to suppress rainfall over India during the monsoon season.
But Rajeevan said El Nino was not too big a concern as of now.
“There are prevailing conditions of a weak El Nino, but we don’t believe that this will affect the monsoon adversely. In any way, there is no established one-on-one correlation between El Nino and the Indian monsoon. The sea surface temperature conditions over the Pacific and Indian oceans are being monitored continuously,” Rajeevan said.
“Overall, the country is expected to have well-distributed rainfall which will be beneficial to Indian farmers during the Kharif season,” he said.
IMD director general K J Ramesh, however, said that the monsoon could have a sluggish start due to El Nino.
“During the monsoon months, we expect the El Nino to weaken and it should, therefore, not have adverse impact on rainfall. There, however could be some impact on the monsoon from the El Nino in theearlier weeks of June, so the rains could be sluggish at this point,’’ Ramesh said.
Rajeevan event went on to predict the likely time of onset of monsoon over the Indian sub-continent, something that the IMD usually announces only in the middle of May.
“We expect the onset of monsoon to take place by mid-May. IMD will issue the second stage monsoon forecast during the first week of June,” he said.
The Indian monsoon season begins with the onset of monsoon rainfall over Kerala sometime around June 1. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands start getting rains from the third week of May.
Last year, rainfall in the monsoon season was both below average as well as less than forecast. India as a whole received 91 per cent of the LPA last year while IMD had forecast that it would get 97 per cent rains. The distribution of rainfall was also erratic, with some parts of the country experiencing extreme rainfall and flash floods that killed hundreds of people and damaged crops and property.
“We were not wrong in our prediction last year. We did however failmiserably in predicting the North Eastern region which received 78 per cent LPA as opposed to the 93 per cent that was forecast. The northeastern region has never dropped below 80 per cent rainfall, so this was unexpected,” Rajeevan said.
Ramesh meanwhile said that the IMD had begun forecasting as well as disseminating information of thunderstorms from last year. “We disseminate information 24 hours in advance when a thunderstorm is expected down to the district. We have recently started forecasting lightning as well and will soon be disseminating this forecast to the districts,” Ramesh said.