NEW DELHI : The India Meteorological Department (IMD) will issue its first long-range forecast for the south-west monsoon on Monday.

The south-west monsoon, which makes its onset over India around May-end, is critical for its over 100-million farmer families. The four-month rainy season contributes more than 70% of India’s annual showers.

The forecast will be closely watched as the IMD will also highlight the global impact of El Nino, and its effect on this year’s monsoons in India. The phenomenon is associated with below normal monsoon rains and droughts.

According to the latest global forecasts, weak El Nino conditions have developed over equatorial Pacific Ocean and they are likely to persist this summer. However, IMD officials have maintained that these conditions would weaken after summer.

If El Nino retains strength and impacts monsoon rains in June and July, the first two months of the season, it could lead to delay in sowing of rain-fed kharif crops affecting overall crop production.

After facing droughts in 2014 and 2015, primarily because of the effects of El Nino, the monsoon rains improved in 2016 with India receiving normal rainfall in the four months between June and September.

In 2017, rainfall was near-normal, but the following year it dropped to 91% of the long period average (LPA). The stakes are high this year as large parts of India, including Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, are witnessing farm distress. Below normal rains could aggravate the agrarian crisis and impact the allied industrial sectors.

Skymet, a private weather forecasting agency, had earlier predicted a sluggish start to the monsoon this year due to El Nino. There is a higher probability that it would be below normal in June and July, it added.

Monday’s IMD forecast will be followed by a second long-range forecast in May, containing predictions for each of the meteorological sub-divisions.

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