In what could come as a relief to the government’s fight against inflation, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicted an ‘above-normal’ monsoon in 2024, which quantitatively could be around 106 per cent of the long period average (LPA).

This mirrors the consensus that most weather experts have on the Indian monsoon this year.

Last week, the private weather forecasting agency Skymet also stated that the cumulative all-India southwest monsoon this year could be ‘normal,’ at 102 per cent of LPA.

The LPA for the June to September rains is 87 centimetres, and a forecast of 106 per cent of this means that the monsoon could be ‘above normal’.

Rainfall between 96 per cent and 104 per cent of LPA is considered normal.

The forecast comes with a model error of plus/minus 5 per cent.

Note: Actual monsoon rainfall will start from June; All the forecasts are with a model error of +/- 4-5%. The first forecast is issued in April every year. All forecasts are percentages of long-period average (LPA). LPA is the average rainfall received in the past 50 years, estimated to be around 87 cm (based on data collected between 1971 and 2020). Earlier the LPA was 88.1 cm, based on data collected between 1961 and 2010 Source: IMD

This is the first time since 2016 that IMD, in its first forecast, has predicted ‘above-normal’ rains.

An El Niño, expected to turn neutral by the time the monsoon season sets in June and then gradually move towards La Niña, a positive Indian Ocean Dipole, and below-normal snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere from January to March will all combine to give India a good monsoon, according to IMD.

In 2023, the southwest monsoon was ‘below normal’ due to the effect of El Niño, the first time in the preceding four years.

The Met department said that almost 75-80 per cent of the country’s landmass is expected to receive normal monsoon this year except for some areas in the extreme Northwest (hills of Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand), East, and Northeast India (such as some parts of Assam, Odisha, and Gangetic West Bengal) where monsoon rains might be below normal.

“This usually happens in ‘above-normal’ monsoon years when parts of East and Northeast India receive ‘below-normal’ rains,” IMD’s Director-General Mrutyunjay Mohapatra told reporters in a briefing on Monday.

Probability-wise, the Met department said that there is a 31 per cent chance of the 2024 southwest monsoon being ‘above normal,’ 30 per cent chance of it being ‘excess,’ 29 per cent chance of the rains being ‘normal,’ and just a 2 per cent chance of them being deficient.

“In short, there is over a 60 per cent chance of the 2024 monsoon being ‘above-normal’ to ‘excess’ and just a minuscule chance of it being ‘below-normal’ or deficient,” Mohapatra said.

Well-distributed rain would go a long way in boosting kharif agriculture production and also provide necessary residual soil moisture for the following rabi harvest.

The rains, particularly in southern India, would also help in refilling the reservoirs, which have been on the brink for the past several weeks.

“A normal monsoon prediction is positive for us. However, the arrival and progress are important as that has a bearing on kharif sowing. The present heatwave continues to be a challenge as water levels in reservoirs have come down, affecting not just horticulture but also cattle and fodder. This can have a bearing on the lives of farmers. In turn, this can also push up inflation in the immediate run. A normal monsoon is a necessary condition for a regular kharif crop but not sufficient. This has been our experience in the past,” Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at Bank of Baroda, said.

First Published: Apr 15 2024 | 8:53 PM IST

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