Equatorial Pacific will stay 'neutral' to a monsoon buster (with exceptions) El Nino and monsoon booster (again, with exceptions) La Nina. This is the most welcome bit of information reaching us, weatherwatchers in India, from leading US and Australian national meterological research/weather forecasting agencies as we prepare ourselves for the next southwest monsoon.

This comes after the roller-coaster ride of the previous year's monsoon which held us on to our toes until almost the end before unleashing its fury in what has been the most spectacular come-backs in monsoon history. Only, it was too late in the day to wipe out the humungous deficit built up over diverse meteorological subdivisions in the country (the season ended below par, with eight per cent deficit).

The conditions in the equatlorial Pacific had bordered on the El Nino, but not quite reaching there in the final analysis. But what made the great turnaround in monsoon fortunes was thanks to the other significant leveller in our own backyard (though not as big in scale as in the Pacific but quite mimicking it) - a positive phase of the Indian Ocean Dipole. This phase warms up the western Indian Ocean, aids evaporation and cloud-builidng, and sends in oodles of moistures riding the southwesterly winds that fan into mainland India before dumping it in heavy to extreme heavy rain.

By the time the Indian Ocean Dipole evolved, the monsoon had reached the last phase and was active mainly over Central and adjoining Northwest India where most of the heavy rain fell - especially Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. By the end of it all, the conditions in the equaorial Pacific had started retreating towards the neutral, from where they have not changed much. Let us all hope that they would stay as such for the duration of the monsoon. But the March-April months are known for raising what is referred to as the 'spring barrier', a period known for lack of emerging clues on what churns in the expansive waters...