India likely to have 'near normal’ monsoon in 2019: IMD

India is likely to experience a “near normal’ southwest monsoon in 2019 during which the country would receive 96% of its average monsoon rainfall.

In its first long-range forecast for 2019 monsoon season, India Meteorological Department also downplayed the El Nino threats by pointing out that the dreaded climate monster was weakening and might impact little on the summer rains.

The assurance from the national weather bureau comes in the back drop of a number of reports that El Nino – unusual warming of the Pacific Ocean that plays havoc with weather around the world – may also adversely affect the 2019 Indian monsoon.

“Quantitatively, the monsoon seasonal rainfall (June to September) rainfall is likely to be 96% of the Long Period Average with a model error of plus or minus 5%,” M Rajeevan, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, said here on Sunday. The long period average derived over 50 years is 89 cm of rainfall.

“Overall the country is expected to have well distributed rainfall scenario during the 2019 monsoon season, which will be beneficial to farmers during the khariff (summer cropping) season,” said K J Ramesh, IMD director general.

The maximum what a weakened El Nino could do, explained Rajeevan, was to delay the onset of the monsoon on the Kerala coast.

Typically the monsoon reaches the Malabar coast anytime between the last week of May to the first 10 days of June. Last year, the onset happened on May 29.

The south-west monsoon delivers nearly 70% of India's annual rainfall and determines the productivity of crops like rice, sugarcane, pulses and soybeans. A good monsoon means better farm output, which in turn gives the economy a shot in the arm.

The April forecast is an outcome based on two independent sets of forecasting models operated by the IMD.

One of them (statistical model) uses five global climate phenomenon as inputs and comes out with the 96% figure. The second one is a dynamical model based on national monsoon mission that comes out with a figure of 94% of average rainfall with an error margin of 5% on either side.

“We rely on the statistical model as it is more accurate. The skills are low in dynamical model, which is still evolving,” said an IMD Pune scientist associated with monsoon forecast methods.

The forecast issued by the met agency on Monday would be updated in June, when a break up on the rainfall expected in four regions of the country would also be issued.

Last year, the IMD predicted 97% of average monsoon rainfall in its April and June forecast, but the season ended with 9% deficit primarily because of the huge shortfall witnessed in the northeast.

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India likely to have 'near normal’ monsoon in 2019: IMD

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