New Delhi: Over the coming fortnight, the meteorological department is expected to forecast the arrival of the monsoon over Kerala. The normal onset of the monsoon over Kerala is on 1 June though it has been at least seven years since the southwest monsoon actually made landfall on Kerala on that date.
Going by history, a deviation of more than four days usually doesn’t augur well for the monsoon. In 2009, for instance, the monsoon arrived nearly eight days ahead of schedule on the 23rd of May and India saw its worst drought in nearly three decades. Last year, the monsoon arrived rather late—on the 5th of June—and India again saw a nearly 8% deficit from the 50-year average of 89 cm.
Experts, however, say that there is no established correlation between the timing of the monsoon’s arrival over Kerala and the performance of the monsoon. The 1 June date is more of “statistical interest”, they added.
“I can’t immediately remember the last time the monsoon stuck to the June 1st date,” said M. Rajeevan, a former forecaster with the India Meteorological Department, “but nine out of 10 times the monsoon always arrives in a four day window of the 1st of June.”
The June-September rainy season starts over the Kerala coast and covers the rest of India and neighbouring Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal by mid-July.
The annual monsoon is crucial for farm output and economic growth as about 55% of the south Asian nation’s arable land is rain-fed, and farm sector accounts for about 15% of a nearly $2-trillion economy, Asi
India is the world’s second-biggest producer of rice, wheat, sugar and cotton and also one of the largest consumers, with a population of about 1.2 billion.
Moreover, the meteorological department’s declaration of the monsoon’s arrival corresponds to a range of meteorological conditions including minimum windspeeds and atmospheric temperatures, as well as at least 60% of key meteorological stations in Kerala getting a minimum amount of rain.
“For all these criteria to be met, it rarely corresponds to a sharp date,” said Rajeevan. A common obstruction to the timely arrival of the monsoon is a freak cyclone and because sowing cycles across Indian states relied as much on the timing, as well as the quantity of the rainfall, tardy rains generally means bad news. “When there’s a delay in arrival, it usually means other states also get their rains late,” said Shiv Kumar, an agriculture scientist.
“That affects sowing timings and can only be made good if there are consistently good rain during July and August,” he said.
(Reuters contributed to this story)