New Delhi: A delay in the monsoon’s arrival over Kerala is unlikely to affect rainfall, but officials are worried about the likely emergence of the El Nino effect later in the season.
Monsoon rainfall, which usually starts in Kerala by 1 June, has been delayed primarily due to a freak typhoon expected to subside by 4 June, weathermen said.
“Most of the conditions for monsoon are being met and it had progressed well over Andamans region,” said D.S. Pai, chief forecaster, India Meteorological Department (IMD), “but a typhoon formed that ended up obstructing the monsoon’s progress. It should dissipate within a day. There’s nothing to be worried as of now.”
For weather officials to formally declare the monsoon’s arrival, 14 weather stations across Kerala ought to receive 2.5mm of rainfall over two consecutive days, along with a minimum prescribed windspeed over these regions. This is the first time since 2005 that the monsoon has failed to reach Kerala before June.
But the larger concern for forecasters is the likely emergence later this year of El Nino, which is marked by a rise in temperatures in certain regions of the Pacific Ocean. In the last century, a greater than 1 degree rise in temperature in the region during the monsoon season in India has corresponded with a monsoon failure, which is why the forecasters are jittery.
To be sure, in April, IMD factored in the possibility of an El Nino occurring when it officially forecast monsoon rainfall over India to be normal—or 99% of the 50-year average of 89cm. “There’s no new input we are giving now,” said Pai. “There could be a problem only if El Nino conditions surface strongly during August, an important monsoon month.”
International weather agencies including IMD, however, concur that the chances for this are relatively slim. “Although the development of El Nino conditions during the northern hemisphere summer and autumn may be possible, uncertainties in the model prediction is large,” stated the latest estimate by the Japan Meteorological Agency, which closely monitors weather in the Pacific.
The monsoon generates nearly 80% of the annual rainfall across India and is vital for the economy, being the main source of water for agriculture, which contributes about 17% to India’s gross domestic product. Other than for the 60% of the country’s workforce that depends on farming, the rains are important for traders dealing in food and cash crops as any shortfall can inject price volatility in the markets.
This year, in particular, notwithstanding a record winter crop output, an evenly distributed monsoon is critical. Not only is it important for this year’s crop output but also for ensuring that rural demand continues to be strong and inflationary pressures ease.
The Wholesale Price Index, India’s main barometer of inflation, rose by 7.23% from a year ago. India’s economic growth slowed to around 6.5% in the fiscal year ended March from 8.4% in the previous year.