NEW DELHI: Having arrived before time for the last two years, the southwest monsoon is likely to set over Kerala on 6 June this year, a delay of more than five days, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Wednesday.

The prediction, made using an indigenous statistical model comes with an error of +/-4 days.

The conditions are becoming favourable for the advance of the monsoon over the southern part of the Andaman Sea, Nicobar Islands and southeast Bay of Bengal during 18-19 May, the government’s weather department said.

“The forecast is prepared on the basis of the evolution in the circulation and convective thermal field over the Indo-Pacific region. The model indicates that the evolution is normal around the Bay of Bengal, but its movement is slower towards the Arabian Sea, so there could be a delay," said D.S. Pai, senior scientist, IMD Pune.

The southwest monsoon normally sets over Kerala on 1 June with a standard deviation of about seven days and then advances northwards to cover the country in 45 days.

The monsoon has been arriving early for the last two years. In 2017 and 2018, the monsoon arrived on 30 May and 29 May, respectively. However, its onset was delayed during the 2014-2015 El Niño years. It arrived on 5 June in 2014 and on 7 June in 2016.

In a country, where the livelihood of more than half the population depends on agriculture, the forecast is crucial, as it is linked to the sowing of rain-fed kharif crops.

“A slight delay in onset should not worry farmers, because the important factor is the quantity of the rainfall and how well-distributed it is. There have been delays in the monsoon’s arrival in the past. The second long-range forecast would be more indicative of the real situation," said N.R. Bhanumurthy of the National Institute of Public Policy and Finance in New Delhi.

IMD allayed fears about the impact of El Niño on the monsoon, though global forecast models indicated that El Niño conditions continue to prevail over the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The global ocean phenomenon has begun to weaken according to initial assessments, and could impact the monsoon in June, after which its effect would begin to decrease.

In its first long-range forecast, IMD had predicted near normal rains for the country this monsoon, projecting it to be 96% of the long-period average (LPA) of 887mm. It will now release its second long-range forecast in May-end, with region-wise predictions regarding distribution of the rainfall in the four month period from June to September.

The second forecast would mark the impact of the looming threat of El Niño over the monsoon. The global ocean phenomenon, characterized by warming of equatorial Pacific Ocean is known to bring down the average rainfall during the entire season. The 2014-15 El Niño led to drought conditions in several parts of the country aggravating rural distress.

“The forecast for near normal rains and then the late arrival, less pre-monsoon rains signal that we should be well-prepared. The rains during the first two months, have been projected to be below-normal. This will be crucial," said Abheek Barua, chief economist, HDFC Bank.

Minimum temperatures over northwest India, pre-monsoon rainfall peak over south peninsula and evolution in circulation and convective activity over the Indo-Pacific Ocean are some of the indicators that signal the arrival of the monsoon.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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