The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has come out with its first official forecast for the 2012 southwest monsoon.
In an exclusive interview, D Sivananda Pai, head of IMD’s long-range forecast and the man behind the predictions since 2002, tells Sanjeeb Mukherjee compared to previous years, the forecast for 2012 is more accurate. Edited excerpts:
IMD’s predictions are usually quite different from actual rains. How reliable is this year’s forecast?
Five-six years earlier, IMD forecasts would have a model error of +/-10 per cent. So, there was a very little chance of anything going wrong. However, subsequently, we changed the method. We are now more accurate in pinpointing the monsoon and the model error has also reduced. So, we have improved over the years and are continuing to do so by adopting new models of forecasting. For 2012, we have taken some help from the dynamic model and are quite confident it would be a reliable estimation. I believe within the range, the forecast should be reliable.
How big a threat is the El Nino this time?
Well, as I said in my presentation, the possibility of the El Nino cannot be ruled out this year. But here, the only crucial aspect is the timing. Whether it would come late in the four-month monsoon season, or during the mid-season, remains to be seen. But, yes there is a possibility of the El Nino.
What is the probability of below-normal rains this year?
There is a chance of about 24 per cent that rains would be below normal this year.
Is this the accepted range of below-normal rains, or do you think there is some criticality involved?
In the last few years, the climatological probability of below-normal rains is 17 per cent. So, you can say the value is slightly more. We have now started issuing probabilities according to international standards. It is meant to help policymakers take better decisions.
Yesterday, the government reconstituted a panel of ministers on drought. Do you see it as a forewarning of something critical?
I can’t comment on this. But I don’t feel this was because of any forewarning. Nevertheless, we keep updating the agriculture ministry and those concerned about the monsoon and its progress.