India Monsoon Rain Looks Set to Be the Strongest Since 1994

  • State agency maintains April rain forecast of 106% of average
  • Monsoon onset over Kerala seen early next week, bureau says

QuickTake: Will India's Monsoon Season Fail?

India is set for the highest monsoon rainfall in 22 years as El Nino, which caused the first back-to-back drought in almost three decades, makes way for a La Nina.

The precipitation during the four-month rainy season starting in June is seen at 106 percent of the 50-year average of about 89 centimeters (35 inches), the same as forecast in April, the India Meteorological Department said in New Delhi on Thursday. That’s less than the 109 percent predicted by Skymet Weather Services Pvt., a private forecaster. The prediction has a margin of error of 4 percent, the department said.

The prediction for above normal downpour for the first time since 2013 is seen boosting prospects of farm output and easing an acute drinking water shortage caused by two years of below-average rain. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is counting on a normal monsoon to sustain economic growth and contain food costs after the lowest rainfall since 2009 hurt rice, corn, sugar-cane and oilseed crops last year.

The tropical Pacific Ocean is in a neutral state and outlooks suggest little chance of indicators returning to El Nino levels, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said last month. That means mid-May marked the end of the event that reduced Indian rainfall, parched farmland in Asia and curbed cocoa production in parts of Africa.

Crop Sowing

Weather watchers are now waiting for La Nina, a cooling of the tropical Pacific sometimes thought of as El Nino’s opposite. La Nina typically brings more rain to parts of Asia, including India. Based on the 26 El Nino events since 1900, about 50 percent have been followed by a neutral year with 40 percent by La Nina, according to the Australian bureau.

The monsoon affects both summer and winter crop sowing in India, and waters more than half of all farmland. Rainfall was 14 percent below a 50-year average in 2015, following a 12 percent shortfall in 2014, data from the meteorological department show. Rains may arrive over Kerala state in the next four to five days, a week behind the normal schedule of June 1, according to the weather office.

The precipitation in July, the wettest month of the monsoon season, is seen at 107 percent of the average, while August may record 104 percent, the forecaster said. Northwest India, the country’s main grain and sugar cane region, will get 108 percent of the average rainfall, while downpour is seen at 113 percent of the average in central and peninsular regions, it said.

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