■ Warming trends in Pacific and Indian oceans under close watch
■ June readings from these oceans may prove decisive
■ Early forecasts suggest 38% possibility of ‘near-normal’ monsoon
■ The South-West monsoon delivers more than 70% of India’s annual rainfall
■ More than half of India’s farmlands are rain-fed
The South-West monsoon is expected to be normal this year, with a fair distribution, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said in its first long-range projection for 2017 on Tuesday.
However, the news, which should give farmers and other stakeholders in the economy cause for cheer, comes with a caveat: uncertainties remain high owing to global anomalies.
“Because of the moderate nature of the predicted global anomalies, including El Nino in the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean Dipole (both of which have opposing effects on rainfall in India), the spread of projections is high,” IMD Director-General KJ Ramesh told mediapersons.
“A clearer picture will emerge only in the second-stage forecast in June,” he added.
According to the official forecast, rainfall during the June-September period averaged over the country as a whole is likely to be 96 per cent (plus or minus 5 per cent) with a fair distribution.
While this places the projected rainfall in the normal range of 96-100 per cent, even a slight slide (which is possible, given the error margin) would put rainfall in the below-normal bracket.
“We believe that the agricultural GDP is most likely to be in range of 3-4 per cent, a tad low compared to the financial year 2017 expectation, if rainfall remains normal. Even in the case of deficit rainfall, there are instances where agri-GDP has in fact expanded,” a report drawn up by the Economic Research Department of SBI noted.
Chances of El Nino down
Ramesh said the chances of an El Nino (which negatively affects monsoon rainfall in India) developing later in the year had fallen from over 50 per cent to about 40 per cent in April; additionally, an IOD development over the equatorial Indian Ocean could have a positive impact on rainfall in India.
Under these influences, the chances of rainfall being better than 96 per cent were as high as 38 per cent.
“This year, the monsoon is expected to have the same positive impact on agriculture as happened last year,” Ramesh said.
The IMD, however, did not come out with the probability of the monsoon being below normal, with officials saying the figures would be given out in June.
Last year, the IMD had initially projected above-normal rainfall of 106 per cent of the long period average (with a model error of plus or minus 5 per cent); the final measured rainfall was about 97 per cent.
The country had a normal monsoon in 2016 after two consecutive years of drought, which wreaked havoc on farmers.