Photographer: Sanjit Das/Bloomberg

India Set for Normal Monsoon Rainfall for a Second Year

Updated on
  • Rainfall seen at 96 percent of a 50-year average: IMD
  • Monsoon accounts for more than 70% of country’s rainfall

India’s southwest monsoon may be normal for a second year in 2017 as forecasters assess the likely impact of a possible El Nino.

Precipitation in the four-month rainy season starting June is seen at 96 percent of a 50-year average, the India Meteorological Department said on Tuesday. The forecast has a margin of error of 5 percent, it said. The department defines normal rainfall as 96 percent to 104 percent of the average.

India’s annual monsoon is critical to the country’s farmers as it accounts for more than 70 percent of rain and waters more than half of all farmland. The country last year recorded normal rainfall after two consecutive years of drought. The weather bureau predicts a less than 50 percent chance of El Nino developing before August. In 34 percent of El Nino years, monsoon rain was normal or above-normal, it said.

“The forecast is on a lower band of the normal range and the situation per say is not as rosy as last year,” said Faiyaz Hudani, associate vice president for research at Kotak Commodity Services Ltd. “A normal monsoon will keep food inflation under control and if it is below normal it will be a problem for the economy.”

Indian Ocean

Forecasts indicate a weak positive Indian Ocean Dipole may develop during the middle of the monsoon season and persist for some months, according to IMD. Positive condition are likely to be favorable for normal or above-normal rain. The bureau said it is also carefully monitoring sea surface conditions in the Pacific Ocean and weak El Nino conditions may develop during the latter part of the monsoon season.

Forecasters globally are predicting a return to El Nino, with Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology putting a 50 percent probability on it developing this year. The event occurs when the equatorial Pacific surface warms and touches off a reaction in the atmosphere above it. It often brings dry weather to parts of Asia and Australia.

The weather department’s estimate compares with a forecast of 95 percent from Skymet Weather Services Pvt., a private forecaster. Skymet puts the chances of above-normal rain at 10 percent and predicts a 50 percent chance of normal rain. There’s a 25 percent chance of below normal precipitation, when rainfall is between 90 percent and 95 percent of the average, it said. There is a 15 percent chance of drought, it said.

Rain was 97 percent of a 50-year average last year, meeting the department’s definition of a normal monsoon. Showers were 14 percent below the average in 2015 and 12 percent below the average in 2014, data from the India Meteorological Department show.

The timing of monsoon rain will be crucial as “higher rainfall in the early part of the monsoon may support sowing,” ICRA Ltd. said in an email. “Adequate rainfall in the second half of the season would remain important for yields.”

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