NEW DELHI: The monsoon is likely to hit the southern tip of the country on time in the first week of June, said India’s top weather department official on Thursday, a week before the official forecast, lifting hopes of better farm output for the third successive year and a chance to rein in food inflation.
“It will hit Kerala in the first week of June with an error window of 2-3 days,” said India Meteorological Department director general LS Rathore.
However, the second half of the monsoon season could be marred by emergence of the El Nino weather mechanism, Rathore said. In 2009, the El Nino turned rains patchy and led to a drought.
Monsoon, vital for farm output and economic growth, irrigate about 60% of India’s farmland. Farming accounts for 14% of the nearly $2-trillion economy and supports the livelihood of 58 million people. India is the world’s second-biggest producer of rice, wheat, sugar and cotton, and also one of the largest consumers.
The Indian weather office treats June 1 as the normal date for the monsoon arrival over the southern coast based on a time series rainfall data of over 100 years. The Met department’s official forecast on the onset of monsoon is slated for next week.
“Yes there are chances of El Nino phenomenon emerging in the Pacific which may not favour rains in the month of August-September. But overall monsoon is likely to be normal. El Nino is just one of the parameters being considered while forecasting,” Rathore said.
El Nino, which means “little boy” in Spanish, is driven by an abnormal warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean. It can create havoc in weather patterns across the Asia-Pacific region. Several models in Australia and India show warming of thePacific Ocean after two straight years of La Nina that resulted in excessive rainfall.
Rathore said heating of the land mass has started in Maharashtra, which will generate a low pressure area. “The heat low pressure is now migrating to North Rajasthan which is a good sign. This will result into building up of north-south pressure gradient along west coast of the country,” he said.
The IMD chief said the comparatively lower temperature in April will not have any impact on monsoon. “Heat low has started little late. But it’s intensifying fast which is a good signal,” he said. “Farmers will be able to sow crops on time in June-July, which means field crops will be at the maturity stage by the time El Nino makes its impact felt, said,” said Jai Shankar Mishra, an agri-scientist.