Southwest monsoon is likely to be "near normal" this year with possibility of a "good distribution" of rainfall across the country, the weatherman said on Tuesday, news that would bring cheer to farmers in parched areas.
Amid ceaseless reports of incidents of farmer suicides due to crop loss and indebtedness, the India Meteorological Department Director General K J Ramesh said that the news will be good for the farming community and the overall economy. Fiftyfive per cent of Indian agriculture is dependent on rainfall.
El Nino is expected to occur in August-September, but it is unlikely to have any major impact on the monsoon, and the weatherman expects a positive Indian Ocean Dipole, which has a strong influence on rainfall in the country.
A strong El Nino phenomenon causes sea temperatures to rise significantly, and has adverse effects on marine and aquatic life, agriculture and the quality of water supplies.
"The country will receive 96 per cent of Long Period Average with an error model of plus or minus 5 per cent," Ramesh said, while releasing the monsoon forecast.
A 96 per cent rainfall means it is on the border line of normal and below normal precipitation.
Anything between 96 and 104 per cent of the LPA is considered "normal", while under 96 per cent rainfall is categorised as "below normal". Rainfall of 104-110 per cent of the LPA is "above normal".
Ramesh said there is 38 per cent probability of a "near normal monsoon" rainfall.
The IMD has not issued a region wise forecast yet. Ramesh said it will make a more detailed prediction in its second forecast in June.
"In spite of prediction of a weak El Nino, the 2017 monsoon likely to be near normal. Good benefits for farmers and country's economy," M Rajeevan, Secretary in the Ministry of Earth Sciences, tweeted.
However, rainfall may be somewhat deficient in the northeast and parts of south India.
"Whenever there is a normal rainfall, central India and western coast get good rainfall. However, the northeast, Rayalseema region of Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu may receive less rainfall," said a senior IMD official.
The year 2016 witnessed normal rainfall across the country, barring deficient precipitation in states like Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and the northeastern states.
Several parts of these states are currently facing drought-like situation, and if good rainfall continue to elude these regions, the problems are likely to exacerbate.
Last year, the IMD had predicted "above normal" monsoon, but it ended on a "normal" note. 2014 and 2015 had witnessed deficient rainfall.
Interestingly, Skymet, a private weather forecasting agency, has predicted a "below normal rainfall" this year, with western India likely to experience a shortfall. It has attributed weak rainfall to the El Nino effect.
S Pai, senior IMD scientist (Climate Predicition), said there are chances of a weak El Nino occurring in August-September. However, there are signs of a positive IOD.
El Nino -- a phenomenon associated with warming of Pacific waters -- is being attributed as one of the main reasons behind a possibly weak monsoon this year. A positive IOD means cooling of Indian Ocean waters, and this also has a positive effect on Indian monsoon.
"A weak El Nino and a positive IOD is a good sign. They offset (effects of) each other," Ramesh said.
The Indian Ocean Dipole, also known as the Indian Nino, is an irregular oscillation of sea-surface temperatures in which the western Indian Ocean becomes alternately warmer and then colder than the eastern part.