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Though it is early to predict, senior officials from state-run India Meteorological Department (IMD) and at private forecasting agency Skymet feel nothing in weather patterns till now indicates a difficult monsoon in India in 2018.
However, scientists also note, monsoon conditions do change quite fast.
IMD’s latest summer update had indicated the favourable La Niña weather condition was likely to moderate till spring and start weakening thereafter. Some global models are indicating emergence of the dreaded El Niño weather phenomenon and this might have a bearing on some part of the four-month southwest monsoon season in India that starts from June. However, weather officials here say even if an El Niño emerges, it is expected to be mild.
“More, it is not always that ocean conditions align totally with atmospheric conditions. A clear picture will emerge only a few months later,” a senior IMD official said.
He said the Indian Ocean Dipole, another weather factor that impacts the Indian monsoon, remains ‘neutral’.
On Tuesday, news agency Reuters said that India’s monsoon rains were expected to be slightly below normal this year. Quoting Kyle Tapley, a senior agricultural meteorologist at Radiant Solutions, formerly MDA Earthsat, the report said La Niña was weakening and “we are moving towards neutral weather”, forecast to be followed by El Niño in the second half of the year as the most likely scenario.
In 2017, the southwest monsoon was 95 per cent of the Long Period Average, considered less than normal. The rains were fairly normal in the first two months of June and July. And, then went for an extended break in August and also early September in some parts. IMD termed this the usual ‘intra-seasonal’ break, while others said was under the influence of El Niño.
The extended mid-season break impacted some regions of central and western India. Later the governments of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh declared drought in a total of 52 districts and sought central assistance.
“The actual situation will get clear from the middle of March onwards. So far, our initial predictions show nothing unusual in the weather patterns but, then, these are still very early days and the picture will get clear around May,” said a senior official from a private weather forecasting agency.
Another private agency, Weather Risk Management Services, said based on weather patterns till the middle of February, the southwest monsoon in India was expected to be on the ‘positive side of normal’. “June is expected to have excess rainfall over most parts of the country. July and September are expected to be within normal limits on the positive side. August might witness subdued monsoon activity, with some areas like the west coast and peninsula under the deficit category,” it added.