Above-normal rains seen, says IMD; monsoon over Kerala in five days

  • Above-normal rain will help the country improve agricultural output and replenish water reservoirs at a time of severe heatwaves.

Puja Das
First Published27 May 2024
The forecast comes as a relief after uneven precipitation and prolonged dry spell last year due to El Nino.
The forecast comes as a relief after uneven precipitation and prolonged dry spell last year due to El Nino.(PTI)

New Delhi: Conditions are favourable for the onset of the monsoon over Kerala in the next five days, India Meteorological Department (IMD) director general Mrutyunjay Mahapatra said, adding that India is likely to receive above-normal monsoon rain this year as mentioned in April, too.

Above-normal rain will help the country improve its agricultural output and replenish water reservoirs at a time when several regions have faced severe heatwaves with the temperature going as high as over 49°C. The forecast comes as a relief after uneven precipitation and prolonged dry spell last year due to El Nino weighing on farm output that pushed up food prices and led the central bank to cut interest rates.

Also Read: Heatwave takes a toll, ailments shoot up

He informed that the monsoon could reach Kerala in the next five days and it is expected to be on time with cyclone Remal that made landfall in the coastal regions of Bangladesh, near Mongla port, and the adjoining Sagar Islands in India's West Bengal, influencing southwesterly wind.

“The southwest monsoon rainfall over the country during June-September is likely to be 106% of the long period average with a model error of +/-4%. The forecast probability is 32% and climatological probability is 16%,” Mahapatra said. The monsoon rainfall over the core zone, or the rainfed agricultural areas of the country, is most likely to be above normal, he added.

While the monsoon will be above normal in central and southern peninsular India, below-normal rainfall is predicted in northeast India and normal in northwest India, he said. Between 105% to 110% of LPA is considered ‘above normal’.

Change in weather

Citing global models, the IMD chief reaffirmed that the transition from El Nino to ENSO-neutral is imminent, with ENSO-neutral favoured in April-June and May-July, and La Nina likely to develop in June-August or July-September.

As far as the arrival of the monsoon in northwest India is concerned, the IMD chief said, “The arrival of the monsoon up to central India is seen to be on time and weaker progress and delayed rainfall is expected thereafter. We will be in a better position to predict it accurately by mid-June.”

“An above normal monsoon forecast by IMD this year will bode well for Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha,” Pushan Sharma, director-Research, Crisil Market Intelligence and Analytics, told Mint.

"However, statistically it may not be enough and its spatial and temporal distribution will be critical," Sharma added citing last year's delayed onset and 6% lower than long period average (LPA) rainfall and erratic spatial and temporal distribution. August 2023 was one of the driest months in India’s history with rainfall 36% lower than LPA. "This impacted vegetative growth for crops such as paddy, maize, pulses, okra, and tomatoes. Cotton too observed flower drops. These crops are expected to benefit from normal and well-distributed rainfall this year,” he said.

Indian farms are heavily reliant on monsoon rainfall—with as much as 56% of the net cultivated area and 44% of food production depending upon the rain. Normal rainfall leads to robust crop production, keeps a lid on food prices, especially vegetables, and bolsters growth. Agriculture accounts for about 14% of the country’s GDP.

Gross Value Added (GVA) growth of agriculture and allied sectors contracted for the first time in 19 quarters to 0.8% in the October-December quarter from 1.6% growth seen in the previous quarter. The growth rate was 5.2% in the year-ago period. In FY23, agriculture GVA growth was 4.7%, while in the first quarter of the current financial year, it was at 3.5%. Overall, the National Statistical Office expects GDP growth to be 5.9% in the January-March quarter against 8.4% a quarter ago.

“Above normal rainfall with normal distribution over space and time augurs well not only for agricultural production but also for sluggish demand growth," said Devendra Pant, chief economist at India Ratings. However, adverse weather events due to climate change have the potential to cast a shadow over optimistic agricultural and consumption growth, he said.

Also Read: IMD proposes, will weather gods dispose? Here’s a data check.

“Despite an increase in irrigation intensity, Indian agriculture has a high dependence on rainfall,” Pant added. On the assumption of normal rainfall and its spread over space and time across the country during June-September (southwest monsoon), Indian agricultural GVA is expected to grow around 3% in 2024-25.

India received “below-average" rainfall—820 mm compared to the long-period average of 868.6 mm—in 2023, an El Nino year. Before 2023, India recorded “normal" and “above-normal" rainfall in the monsoon season for four years in a row.

Extended heatwave

The IMD has also predicted a greater number of heatwave days in northwest India and adjoining parts of the central region in June. Northwest regions may experience hotter days and more humid nights. In the remaining days of the month, the heatwave is anticipated to prevail and abate from Thursday.

Also Read | Doctors caution about heatstroke amid IMD warning of severe heatwave

Large parts of northern India continue to reel under a fierce heatwave with temperatures soaring over 45 degrees Celsius at many places in the country since last week.

Mungeshpur in Delhi recorded a maximum temperature of 48.8 degrees Celsius and Rajasthan's Barmer recorded 49.3 degrees Celsius at 5:30 pm on Monday, according to the IMD.

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