The India Meteorological Department on Friday issued its first-stage, long-range forecast for the Southwest Monsoon. It is likely to be “normal,” with a precipitation of 98 per cent of the long-period average (LPA), with a model error of plus or minus five per cent.
In other words, the rainfall during the four-month season, from June to September, is likely to be between 93 per cent and 103 per cent of the LPA. (The LPA is the average of the rainfall over 50 years — from 1941 to 1990 — and it comes to 89 cm).
Highly placed sources in the Department told The Hindu that as of now, there seemed a greater probability for the rainfall to be in the lower side of the range (between 93 per cent and 98 per cent) than in the higher side (between 98 per cent and 103 per cent). This was because of a weak El Nino condition, which was expected to prevail till the early part of the monsoon and which could have an adverse impact on it.
But the sources said that even if the rainfall amounted to only 93 per cent, it would not be a matter of concern. “There can be a problem only if the rainfall dips below 90 per cent. That does not seem to be possible this year.”
Agreeing that a weak El Nino condition was expected to prevail for some more time before getting neutralised, IMD Director-General Ajit Tyagi said the present situation was far better than what was obtaining earlier. The El Nino condition, which started strengthening from late October last, peaked in the third week of December. Since then, it had weakened, he said. Further, a few models indicated that there was a possibility of a weak La Nina developing by July or August, he said. La Nina is the opposite of El Nino. “The IMD will keep a close watch on the El Nino front.”
The forecast of a rainfall ranging from 93 per cent to 103 per cent should come as a great relief, given the dismal monsoon last year, which resulted in a steep increase in the prices of food articles.
Last year, there was a rainfall of just 78 per cent of the LPA for the whole of the country. The north-west India was the worst hit, with a precipitation of just 65 per cent of the LPA, followed by the north-east (77 per cent of the LPA] and central India (80 per cent). Only the southern peninsular region had a good rainfall, with a precipitation of 94 cent.
Of the 511 meteorological districts for which data was available, 294 districts received deficient or scanty rainfall during the season. June 2009 was the worst period: it registered a rainfall of just 53 per cent of the LPA for the month, The situation improved, with July recording a rainfall of 98 per cent, August 73 per cent and September 80 per cent, but they were not adequate to fill the huge gap.