India's monsoon, the lifeblood of Asia's third-largest economy, is likely to be below normal, predictions unveiled by private forecaster Skymet said on Tuesday.
The June-September monsoon will likely be "94% of the long-period average", it said, based on collation of data from leading global models. Falls between 96% and 104% are considered normal.
The much-feared global weather pattern known as El Nino, which is said to impact India's monsoon, is steadily evolving but is likely to be a mild one, Skymet said.
El Nino, literally "little boy" in Spanish, is a climate phenomenon marked by higher than average sea temperatures in the equatorial pacific.
"We expect a non-amplifying El Nino," Skymet's CEO Jatin Singh said.
Although an El Nino can considerably weaken India's monsoon, the correlation between the two isn't always strong.
For example, less than half of El Nino years in a 126-year period have resulted in a deficient monsoon.
In 1997, when the world witnessed one of the strongest El Ninos, the monsoon was quite normal. Yet, in 2009, an El Nino resulted in India's worst drought in decades.
"There is a 25% probability of a drought, which put in perspective, is low probability," said DR Sikka, a veteran forecaster who serves on Skymet's panel.
Sikka is a former director of the Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.
Skymet, however, said its predictions did not qualify to be called a "forecast" but was rather a "foreshadow" of the monsoon's prospects because it has collated data from several global models for its predictions.
The state-run India Meteorological Department is set to unveil its official forecast in the third week of April.
Skymet said its predictions showed there was a 34% chance of the monsoon being normal, compared with a 40% possibility that the rains would be below normal.
The monsoon is critical because nearly half of all Indians depend on agriculture for livelihood and 60% of farms or arable land do not have any assured irrigation.
Rainfall would likely be scantier in states such as Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab and Haryana compared with some southern and eastern states.