India's monsoon, vital for its economy, is likely to be normal, but the El Nino weather pattern could pose a risk in the second half of the season, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Thursday in its official forecast.
Chances of a normal monsoon are 47%, lower than last year's 50%. Probability of a deficient monsoon stood at 24%. The predictions, therefore, point to average rainfall. If the rains are adequate, then India will have a thrid straight year of plentiful summer rains, crucial for the farm eceonomy.
The weather bureau issues two forecasts for the annual monsoon and Thursday's predictions will be updated in mid-June, although there will be weekly updates on rainfall throughout the season.The June-September rains are likely to be 99% of the long-period average, minister for science Vilasrao Deshmukh said. Falls between 96% and 104% of the long-term average (50 years) are considered normal.
The summer rains are critical for India, Asia's third biggest economy, because two-thirds of Indians depend on farm income and 60% of farmed areas do not have any source of irrigation, other than monsoon.
El Nino, which triggered India's 2009 drought could re-appear this year but its precise impact on India's monsoon is still hard to gauge at present, it said. "We can't rule out El Nino conditions in the latter stages of the season," D Sivananda Pai, the IMD's chief long-range forecaster, said.
El Nino, or "little boy" in Spanish, is marked by an abnormal warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean. It has been linked with weaker rains and creates havoc in weather patterns across the Asia-Pacific region.
Last year, La Nina conditions aided a robust monsoon. Literally "little girl" in Spanish, it is marked by in stronger rains. "We are undergoing a transition from La Nina to El Nino. Currently, conditions are neutral," Pai said.