India will get a normal monsoon this year, benefitting farmers, with average rainfall as a whole likely to be around 96 per cent, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) announced on Tuesday.
However, a clearer picture of the season, which normally extends from June 1 to September 30, would only be available in June, it said.
"The forecast suggests that the monsoon rainfall during the 2017 monsoon season averaged over the country as a whole is likely to be 96 per cent, with a moderate error estimated at plus-minus five per cent of the Long Period Average (LPA)," IMD Director General K.J. Ramesh said at a press conference in New Delhi.
He further added that the forecast assessment suggests 38 per cent of probability for "near normal monsoon rainfall".
The actual status of the overall rainfall in India would however depends on the future status of 'El Nino' and 'Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)' activities.
'El Nino' is a climatic phenomenon which is the warm phase of the cycle of warm and cold temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that also impacts the monsoon. A high El Nino has a negative effect in terms of the weather, agriculture and economics.
Similarly, IOD is a climate event occurring over the equatorial Indian Ocean. A positive dipole is associated with warming over the western Indian Ocean and cooling over the eastern Indian Ocean.
The IMD data suggests that a moderate or strong El Nino and a positive IOD results in good rainfall. In 1997, the country experienced 102 per cent monsoon when both phenomenon were optimal.
"There is an uncertainty, as probability of moderate El Nino in August has reduced. Moderate IOD is also developing in Indian Ocean...This is anyway good for India... we will get more answers in June," said Ramesh.
According to the IMD, 96 per cent is however averaged over the country as a whole, while the regional forecast will be done in June and the date of the monsoon's onset into Kerala will be announced in late May. IMD will issue the updated forecasts in early June as a part of the second stage long range forecast of monsoon rainfall.
According to the weatherman, below 90 per cent rainfall is considered deficient and at 95 per cent, it is considered below normal. In 2005, the nation saw only 86 per cent of All India monsoon rainfall (per cent of LPA).
A figure between 96 and 104 per cent of rainfall indicates a normal monsoon and between 105 and 110 per cent above normal.
Reactions poured in after the IMD's announcements.
"A normal monsoon means steady rains, ample irrigation water availability and a good crop to our farmers. In all, a good year for everyone," tweeted Union Science Minister Harsh Vardhan.
The ICRA Ltd, an independent and professional investment information and credit rating agency, said that the timing of the rainfall would matter.
"In addition to the overall level, the timing of rainfall would be crucial. Higher rainfall in the early part of the monsoon may support sowing. However, adequate rainfall in the second half of the season would remain important for yields," said Aditi Nayar, Principal Economist at ICRA.
ICRA pointed out that though the current water-reservoir storage exceeds the level during 2016, it may still not prove adequate to shield the crop sector, if monsoon rainfall turns out to be appreciably weaker than the IMD's initial forecast.
According to the Union Water Resources Ministry, reservoir storage is currently at around 31 per cent of full capacity.