After two consecutive years of a failed monsoon, followed by bouts of unseasonal rain, farmers and policymakers finally have reason to cheer. On Wednesday, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) declared the onset of the monsoon after the 14 stations monitored in Kerala recorded widespread rainfall over 48 hours.

The monsoon may have arrived a week later than its scheduled 1 June arrival date, but it’s expected to be a good one.

Last year’s dry spell had 11 states declaring drought. Around 25% of the country’s population is in the grip of drought, according to a May report in The Indian Express.

One of the major factors for the poor monsoon last year was the El Niño phenomenon (the unusual warming of Pacific waters). Weather scientists have forecast that La Niña, a cooling of the Pacific waters, can be expected to develop later this year. While El Niño is associated with drier monsoons, La Niña is linked to heavier rainfall.

This year, the IMD says, the country will receive above-normal rainfall, or 106% of what’s described as the long-period average (average rainfall during June-September from 1951-2000). Usually, the south-west monsoon is expected over the Andaman Sea around 20 May, give or take a week. It then advances in two directions: in the south-east to north-west direction in the Bay of Bengal, from mid-May to early June, and along the west coast and up, from May-end to mid-June. The monsoon advances northward, usually in surges, and covers the entire country by mid-July.

This year, Met scientists expect it to advance rapidly. At present, it’s expected to reach central India by next week; the north-east too can expect to receive monsoon showers in a week.

The June-September monsoon season, when India receives 80% of its annual rainfall, is crucial to the sowing season for summer crops. Of the total food production in the country, 44% comes from rain-fed areas that also support about 40% of the country’s population.

The rain should also bring relief from heat waves and a hotter than normal summer. Telangana, the worst hit, has reported at least 300 heat-related deaths so far this year. The country registered its highest-ever temperature on 19 May, when Phalodi in Rajasthan recorded 51 degrees Celsius.

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