India will experience a normal South-West Monsoon this year, dispelling concerns over the most-expected weather event being affected by developments such as El Nino.

“Rainfall during monsoon will be 96 per cent of the long period average (LPA) of 87 cm. It will be 82.5 cm of the 87 cm received during 1971-2020,” M Ravichandran, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, told a press conference.

Fifth normal year

Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, Director General, India Meteorological Department (IMD), said the forecast, making it the fifth consecutive year of normal monsoon, is based on both statistical and dynamic model probabilities.  The forecast has an error margin of 5 per cent on either side

IMD will likely come up with an update on the monsoon next month-end when spatial distribution and monthly rainfall will be predicted for each of the four regions, Mohapatra said. 

The South-West Monsoon, accounting for 74 per cent of the total annual rainfall received by India, is key to agriculture and the kharif crops grown between June and September and harvested around October. The kharif season makes up 60 per cent of India’s total agricultural production and holds the key to the country’s economy, particularly in rural areas. 

The forecast should assuage fears expressed by some of a below normal monsoon when the country is headed towards elections in 2024. Experts said whatever is IMD’s outlook it all depends on the distribution of the rainfall across the country. 

Private forecast

On Monday, private forecaster Skymet forecast a below normal monsoon, saying the rainfall will be 94 per cent of the LPA.

Though the country received ‘above normal’ rainfall (106 per cent of LPA) last year, the distribution was uneven with the eastern parts receiving deficient showers. 

He said the El Nino weather phenomenon, which results in droughts in parts of Asia, could set in from July. As a result, the development may impact rainfall in the second half (August-September) of the monsoon season.

Event factored in

On the impact of El Nino in the latter part of monsoon, Ravichandran said showers in August and September could be lower than normal but the possibility has been factored into the overall monsoon forecast. 

Mohapatra said there is a 35 per cent chance of normal rainfall as per forecast probability. The climatological probability pegs the chance of a normal rainfall at 33 per cent.

The IMD Director-General said normal rainfall is likely over peninsular India and adjoining east central, east, north-east and some parts of north-west during monsoon. However, some other parts (mainly Haryana and Punjab) of north-west region, where major kharif crops such as paddy is grown, will likely to see below normal rainfall. The same pattern is forecast for west-central region comprising Gujarat, west Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra and pockets of north-east.

Lower snow cover

On El Nino, Mohapatra said conditions are likely to develop for the weather event during monsoon but all El Nino years “are not bad monsoon years”. According to IMD data, out of 15 El Nino years in the past (1951-2022), on five occasions when India had normal or above normal monsoon rainfall.. 

He also said the snow-covered over the northern hemisphere and Eurasia was below normal during December 2022-March 2023. “Lower snow cover over the northern hemisphere as well as Eurasia during winter and spring is favourable for the South-West Monsoon,” the IMD Director General said.

Outlining the third influential weather system over monsoon, he said Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) conditions, currently neutral, may turn positive during the season, which will be good for the southwest monsoon over India.