scorecardForecasts of normal monsoons raise hopes of bumper harvests, but intense bouts could play spoilsport
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Forecasts of normal monsoons raise hopes of bumper harvests, but intense bouts could play spoilsport

Forecasts of normal monsoons raise hopes of bumper harvests, but intense bouts could play spoilsport
IndiaIndia3 min read
The summer may feel unusually warm, but the monsoon appears eager to bring some relief. The latest forecasts by The Weather Channel have suggested that the southwest monsoon could arrive earlier than previously predicted, offering a welcome respite during this intense heat.

However, the developing Cyclone 'Remal' in the Bay of Bengal raises questions about its impact on the monsoon's arrival. If the storm heads towards the Indian coast, it might speed up the monsoon’s onset. Conversely, it could also deplete moisture from the monsoon winds, leading to drier initial monsoon days. Additionally, if the cyclone veers towards Myanmar, it could delay the onset.
Normal onset and rainfall forecast
The Weather Channel’s latest forecast indicates that the monsoon is likely to reach Kerala’s coast by June 1, which is the average onset date in India. Last year, the southwest monsoon was delayed, arriving on June 8. In fact, last year’s monsoon onset was the third-most delayed in nearly three decades, partly due to moisture-depleting cyclonic activities that disrupted monsoonal wind movements.

Most models predict that the cooling La Niña phase of ENSO will start soon, which could strengthen monsoonal rainfall over India. Furthermore, the Indian Ocean Dipole is expected to remain positive until the end of the rainy season, enhancing precipitation during this period.

These favourable conditions are likely to result in a wetter-than-normal monsoon, according to The Weather Channel. Earlier forecasts estimated 103% of normal rainfall, but the updated forecast has increased this to 105%. For context, last year we received only 94% of the long-period average rainfall between June and September, according to the India Meteorological Department.

Additionally, rainfall in South India is expected to be higher than previously predicted in July. Unfortunately, warmer-than-usual temperatures are also anticipated during the monsoon season.

Another point to note is that while total rainfall may be high, the number of rainy days has been predicted to be below average, suggesting more intense weather in shorter periods. Most of the country is likely to dry up by September, potentially leading to an earlier-than-normal monsoon withdrawal.
Impact on harvests
Despite grossing what can be considered “normal” rainfall, erratic precipitation led to India’s kharif crops sustaining a severe hit last year. Many states received unnaturally high downpours, leading to flooded agricultural fields, while prolonged dry periods delayed sowing in others. If similar conditions reign this season around — as has been forecasted by — more stresses could mount on our already declining agricultural sector this year.

The India Meteorological Department’s forecasts have predicted excellent rains over most parts of the country, while scarcities could impact some areas over Northwest, East and Northeast India, particularly in Himachal, Ladakh, Odisha, West Bengal and most of the seven sister states. This could impact the sowing and growth of the kharif crops that are severely dependent on monsoonal rainfall in their early growing stages.

Further, many experts were concerned about dwindling reservoir levels in the country — which stood at only a third of total capacity at the beginning of May. Bountiful monsoonal rainfall could not only help replenish these agricultural lifebloods as well, but a good subsequent harvest also prompts the government to finally ease rice export curbs on non-basmati white rice that have been in place since 2022.

That being said, many organisations have already begun celebrating the news of above-normal rains, which could massively boost the production of kharif crops such as rice, sugarcane, soybean and other pulses.