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'Below normal' monsoon this year: Skymet

Private weather forecast agency, Skymet Weather, has predicted 'below normal' monsoon for India this year. Though such prediction may be a cause of concern for the country's agriculture which continues to depend largely on monsoon rainfall, it is too early to press the panic button at this juncture.

In its forecast, released for the upcoming monsoon season on Monday, the Skymet said, "The monsoon this year is likely to remain below normal at 95 per cent (with an error margin of +/-5%) of the long period average (LPA) of 887 mm (89 cm) for the four-month period from June - September".

Since it is too early to predict the monsoon based on several indicators, the forecast agency may revise it in due course like it did last year. Even on Monday, the Skymet said there was 50 per cent chance of normal monsoon.

India's national weather forecast agency - India Meteorological Department (IMD) - may come out with its initial monsoon forecast next month. The IMD had last year revised its earlier forecast from "above normal" monsoon to "normal".

The LPA of the seasonal rainfall over the country asa whole for the period 1951-2000 is 89 cm. Monsoon is considered as "normal" if the average rainfall is between 96-104% of the LPA. Anything less than 90% of the LPA is termed as a "deficient" monsoon and 90-96% of the LPA is considered as "below normal". The "above normal" monsoon is between 104-110% of the LPA and anything beyond 110% of the LPA is considered as "excess".

"Early prediction generally helps the farm sector and agriculture ministry in taking certain contingency measures in advance to meet adverse situation", said an official of agriculture ministry.

He said, "Moreover, it has been noticed over the years that the overall performance of Kharif (summer) crops depend more on adequate distribution of rainfall even if the country as a whole receives normal rainfall. If certain parts of the country get good rainfall and other parts do not get that much of rain, the Kharif crops get affected".

India had normal monsoon last year but the country had faced two consecutive drought years due to deficit monsoon in 2015 and 2014.

According to the Skymet, below normal rainfall is expected over peninsular India, Maharashtra, Gujarat, parts of Madhya Pradesh and Haryana. "Odisha, Jharkhand and West Bengal might get good rainfall", said the agency. Though the below normal rainfall is generally attributed to the El Nino phenomena, this particular weather pattern is likely to emerge only after July - it means it won't affect the rainfall during the first month of the Monsoon in June. The Monsoon generally hits mainland India in first week of June.
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