The India Meteorological Department (IMD) would come up with its first official forecast of 2016 southwest monsoon in April, but initial predictions from global weather agencies do indicate towards an overall weakening of the El Niño phenomenon, which was responsible for the consecutive droughts of 2014 and 2015.
El Niño is a set of changes in the weather system near the coast of northern Peru and Ecuador that happens every few years, causing the surface of the Pacific Ocean there to become warmer and having severe effects on the weather in many parts of the world.
A weakening of the El Niño might not immediately lead to La Niña phenomenon, which causes ample rains, as by all indications, the conditions are expected to remain neutral during the time monsoons hit the Indian mainland that is around June 2016.
|POURING WITH RAIN|
La Niña is the cooling of the water in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean that happens every few years and that affects the weather in many parts of the world.
The performance of southwest monsoon would hold the key to India's growth prospects next financial year.
A proper well-distributed monsoon in 2016 would not only ensure that agriculture production improves, but it could also boost rural spending and consumption, which has lagged in the last few years.
The Australian Weather Bureau (AWB) in its last weather forecast released a few days ago said El Niño continues its gradual decline in 2015-16 due to which sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean are cooling, and beneath the surface, cooler-than-average waters are advancing into the eastern Pacific.
It said based on the 26 El Niño events since 1900, around 50 per cent had been followed by a neutral year, and 40 per cent by La Niña.
However, the Bureau also added that most international climate models suggest neutral is most likely for the second half of the year. India's southwest monsoon is expected to hit precisely during that time.
A repeat of El Niño is very unlikely.
A good monsoon in 2016 would ensure that India's agriculture and allied activities growth in 2016-17 moves beyond 1.45 per cent, which it has clocked on average in the last two years.
However, another year of poor monsoon would spell doom for India's rural sector.
India's overall foodgrain production in 2015-16 is expected to be 253.16 million tonnes according to the second advance estimate, just marginally more than the final production of 2014-15. However, more than the final production numbers, the drought has had a far bigger cascading impact on the rural economy.