Near normal south-western monsoon predicted

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New Delhi, Apr 16 (UNI) Indian Meteorological Department(IMD) today predicted a near normal south-west monsoon rainfall for this year too, thereby generating hope for better agriculture production.

The first monsoon forecast officially announced here by Mr Kapil Sibal, Minister for Science and Technology, says the rainfall in the country will be around 89 cm from June to September, which was long range average between 1941 and 1990 with possible error of five per cent plus and minus. However, the Minister was emphatic that rainfall would be 99 per cent of the average 89 cm.

However, the IMD will update its forecast in coming June as a second prediction and a separate forecast for July rainfall over the country as a whole and seasonal (June-September) rainfall over four different geographical regions of India will also be issued then.

Last year (2007) was the fourth warmest year on record since 1901 after 2002, 2006 and 2003. As a result, the southwest monsoon rainfall as a whole was above normal with a long term period average of 106 per cent. However, five of the 36 meteorological divisions covering West Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, East Madhya Pradesh and Marathwada received deficit rainfall while six received excess rainfall covering West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Saurashtra and Kutch, Rayalaseema, South interior Karnataka and Lakshadweep.

To minimise the probability of error in the rainfall prediction, the IMD experts this year too used a mix of forecast parameters- statistical ensemble for northern, eastern and central parts of the country and dynamic data yardstick for north east and southern peninsula. This mix methodology was adopted last year.

The rainfall prediction has been divided in five categories- upto 90 per cent as deficit, 90 to 96 as below normal, 96 to 104 as normal, 106-110 as above normal and more than 110 as excess.

Onset of southwest monsoon rainfall begins in first week of June when it hits Kerala's coast every year. Monsoon covers the entire country till the southwest winds lose their sheen by September end.

In between, there is a chance of developing La Nina conditions over the equatorial Pacific with the sea surface becoming colder than the normal. La Nina impacts adversely the monsoon rainfall.

This year, La Nina conditions declined to moderate-strength in March. And La Nina will become weak and persist during the next three months ---- there is considerable uncertainty in the forecast of La Nina conditions.

The southwest rainfall is crucial for the agricultural production since more than 65 per cent of arable land of the country comes under dry farming and competely depends on the quantum of rainfall directly for Kharif crop (summer) and indirectly for preserving moisture for the Rabi crop (winter). Besides, the supply of irrigation water for crops also depends on the level of water in the country' 70 odd big reservoirs.

The southwest monsoon is the life line of the country which is now importing wheat pulses and edible oils on a bigger scale, and food prices have spiralled with lowest stocks worldover during past three decades.

UNI JSS-BBS RP HT1714

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