India looks likely to receive above average monsoon rainfall as concerns over the El Nino weather condition has eased in the past few weeks, the chief of the weather office said on Tuesday, raising prospects of higher farm and economic growth.
The state-run India Meteorological Department (IMD) on April 18 forecast this year’s monsoon rains at 96% of a 50-year average of 89 cm.
“Things have changed for good since then,” KJ Ramesh, director general of the IMD, said.
The monsoon delivers about 70% of India’s annual rainfall, critical for growing crops such as rice, cane, corn, cotton and soybeans because nearly half of the country’s farmland lacks irrigation.
“We assessed 96% based on the climatological conditions up to March. Now, conditions are becoming favourable for an improvement over our April 18 estimate,” Ramesh said.
India defines average, or normal, rainfall as between 96% and 104% of the 50-year average.
Citing some climatological parameters, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology recently said there were signs of concerns easing over El Nino.
El Nino, a warming of ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific that typically occurs every few years and was linked to crop damage, fires and flash floods, faded in 2016.
Ramesh said the Indian Ocean Dipole, or IOD phenomenon, which counters an El Nino weather event, looks favourable for monsoon rains this year.
Jettisoning a statistical method introduced under British colonial rule in the 1920s, the India Meteorology Department has for the first time relied on the so-called dynamic model to improve the accuracy of one of the world’s most vital weather forecasts.
The new system, based on a US model tweaked for India, requires large computing power to generate three-dimensional models to help predict how the monsoon is likely to develop.
Experts say better forecasting could help India raise its farm output by nearly 15%, by helping farmers tweak the best time to sow, irrigate or apply fertiliser and if rains fail, plan state-wide measures.
This would be a major boon for a country already either the world’s biggest or second-biggest producer and consumer of rice, wheat, sugar and cotton.
Higher farm output will raise the income of some 600 million people, who depend on farming for their livelihood, and boost demand for an array of goods and services.