Monsoon continues to be slow and weak, may affect sowing: Experts
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) did not provide an outlook on Wednesday on whether the monsoon will advance further over the next few days, indicating that the progress may continue to be slow.
NEW DELHI: The southwest monsoon is running several days behind in covering the peninsular India and it is also in a weak phase which could be a worry for farmers waiting to sow their crops, experts said on Wednesday.
The monsoon is normally expected to cover large parts of Maharashtra, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh by June 10. However, it has only covered most parts of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and south interior Karnataka over peninsular India and almost all of northeast India till June 8 this time.
On Wednesday, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) did not provide an outlook on whether the monsoon will advance further over the next few days, indicating that the progress may continue to be slow.
“There is almost a 5–7-day delay in the progress of the monsoon. It is presently in a weak mode. Monsoon moves in bursts, sometimes it’s in a weak phase while sometimes it’s in a vigorous phase. If a low-pressure area forms over Bay of Bengal in the next few days, then it will propel the monsoon. But immediately we are not seeing any chances of such a low-pressure area developing. Slow monsoon progress may affect sowing but normally most states have a large window with time up to July 15 for sowing. They have a range so I don’t see any trouble immediately,” explained DS Pai, director of Institute of Climate Change Studies and former climate scientist at IMD Pune.
The monsoon rains are critical this year because northwest and central India are experiencing a very prolonged extreme heat and dry spell which started in March. The monsoon season, which begins on June 1, is crucial for summer crops and brings about 70% of India’s annual rainfall. It is especially critical to the country’s agriculture, which is one of the mainstays of its economy. Monsoon spurs farm produce and improves rural spending. Monsoon rains are a lifeline for about 60% of the country’s net cultivated area that has no irrigation. The monsoon impacts inflation, jobs, and industrial demand. Good farm output keeps a lid on food inflation. Ample harvests raise rural incomes and help inject demand into the economy. But, IMD’s monsoon onset forecasts are often a bit off mark like this year.
IMD’s initial forecast of a robust monsoon onset around May 27 raised hopes for good sowing but after a robust onset over Andaman and Nicobar region on May 16, monsoon went into a lull from May 20 to 26. IMD declared monsoon onset over Kerala on May 29, three days ahead of its normal date on June 1. Many experts had said IMD may have announced monsoon onset hurriedly over Kerala as the rainfall criterion for monsoon onset remained unmet on that day. Since May 29, monsoon progress has not been robust. There is a 42% rain deficiency over the country. Between June 1 and June 8, peninsular India recorded a 26% deficiency with coastal Karnataka recording 70% deficiency; Telangana 71% deficiency and even Kerala and Mahe region recording 54% rain deficiency. Out of 36 subdivisions in the country, 22 have a large deficiency (over 60% deficit) in rainfall.
The monsoon rainfall during the next four months (June to September) is likely to be “normal” at 103% of Long Period Average with a model error of +/-4%, IMD said on May 31. The rainfall across the country during June is likely to be normal (92 to 108% of Long Period Average- LPA), IMD had forecast.
“The progression of the monsoon over India is a battle between the dry summer air and moist monsoon winds. To win the battle, the monsoon must push away the dry air either on its own or with the support of the tropical intra-seasonal oscillation. For brevity, the tropical intra-seasonal oscillation could be visualised as bands of clouds and rain that move northwards and eastwards from the equator. When they are not located over India, the dry air wins and the monsoon’s progress gets stalled. Currently, these bands are not present over the Indian region, so the monsoon is left alone in this battle,” explained Akshay Deoras, an independent meteorologist and doctoral researcher at the UK’s University of Reading.
“The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), which is an important mode of the tropical intra-seasonal oscillation, propagates eastwards along the equator. It is currently located over Africa, but models suggest that it will reach the Indian Ocean in the second fortnight of June, so rainfall activities in India will increase from the week commencing June 13. During this week, we can expect the monsoon to reach states such as Goa, Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal and Bihar. The monsoon is not expected to reach Delhi-NCR before June 20, but pre-monsoon thunderstorms would commence after June 15. Overall, the rainfall situation for most of India during the second fortnight of June looks better than that during the first fortnight. However, below average rainfall is expected in most areas, including the monsoon core zone, until June 20. So kharif sowing in the monsoon core zone will extensively depend on the monsoon’s performance in the second fortnight of June,” he added.
“We cannot say that the monsoon is in a weak phase. Wherever monsoon has arrived, there has been excess rainfall except Kerala. We are expecting a cyclonic circulation to form over Arabian Sea which will help the monsoon move forward,” said M Mohapatra, director general, IMD.
But a state-wise break up of rainfall during the past 8 days shows Meghalaya, Sikkim and Nagaland have recorded excess rains but Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura have deficient rainfall.