NEW DELHI: The southwest monsoon is likely to make its onset over the Indian coast around 4 June under the “shadow of El Niño", private weather forecasting agency Skymet said on Tuesday, signalling below normal rains that can hurt agriculture and the wider economy.
“The monsoon is beginning under the shadow of the El Niño, which is likely to have its impact on the rainfall. It’s not a very happy situation. The onset and further progress is also not expected to be very smooth," said Jatin Singh, managing director, Skymet.
The 4 June prediction comes with an error margin of two days.
The start of the monsoon is marked by its onset over the Kerala coast, which is normally on 1 June. After that, it takes around 45 days to cover the entire country. Last year, the monsoon arrived on 29 May and covered the country 15 days ahead of its normal course.
“They key sowing period is not immediately in the first two weeks of June, so even if the monsoon picks up momentum after a sluggish start, that could contain the impact. We should wait to see, how the monsoon actually evolves," said Indranil Pan, chief economist at IDFC Bank.
El Niño, a global ocean phenomenon marked by warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean, is associated with below normal rains in India.
“The current systems are indicating that the progress of the monsoon (in India) may be erratic," said Singh.
The agency also released its region-wise forecast for the monsoon. Rainfall over central India, east and north-eastern states is likely to be poorer, than that in the southern peninsula and north-west India. However, it could be below normal across all four regions.
The last El Niño episode in India was in 2014-2015, associated with back-to-back droughts across farmlands dependent on rain-fed irrigation, and widespread rural distress, particularly in central and western regions.
A 20% deficit is expected over the core monsoon region of central India, specifically Madhya Pradesh. The regional forecast comes with an error of +/-8%.
According to the Skymet forecast, the June-to-September rains are likely to be 92% of the long period average (LPA) in eastern and north-eastern states, 91% in central India, 96% in north-western India and 95% in southern peninsula. Rains are considered normal when they are between 96% and 104% of the LPA.
In its early forecast in April, the agency had put the probability of below normal rains in the June-September at 55% and that of drought at 15%. According to its forecast, the monsoon rains are likely to be below normal at 93% (+/-5%) of the long-period average of 887 mm.
“Whether its weak or strong El Niño, if it persists will have an impact," said Singh.
The government’s weather office India Meteorological Department (IMD) is yet to release the forecast for the onset of monsoon.