The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has indicated that the monsoon rainfall in 2023 is expected to be “below normal” or on the lower side of “normal,” following a deficiency of 36% in August – the worst in 122 years.
Monsoon Deficiency Raises Concerns
The deficiency in rainfall during August has raised concerns about the yield of kharif crops and the subsequent sowing in the rabi season. Experts are worried about the potential impact on agricultural productivity.
Despite the August shortfall, the weather office maintains its earlier forecast of a “normal” monsoon at 96% of the long-period average (LPA) with an error margin of +/-4%.
Rainfall Statistics and Implications
The IMD considers rainfall between 90-95% of LPA as “below normal” and anything less than 90% as “deficient.” Rainfall ranging between 96% and 104% is categorized as “normal.” August 2023 recorded the driest and warmest conditions for the entire country since record-keeping began in 1901.
The deficient rainfall can not only damage the yield of kharif crops but also impact groundwater and reservoir levels, which could influence rabi sowing. This situation might lead to higher prices for essential commodities such as cereals, pulses, and oilseeds.
El Niño and Indian Ocean Dipole Influence
The IMD has noted that weak El Niño conditions are currently prevailing over the equatorial Pacific region, expected to intensify and continue into early next year. Additionally, the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), currently neutral, is expected to turn positive during the remaining monsoon months.
El Niño, characterized by warmer sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, is known to cause rainfall deficiency in India. On the other hand, a positive IOD can contribute to normal rains in the country.
Importance of Monsoon Rainfall
The southwest monsoon is responsible for around 70% of India’s annual rainfall. Adequate monsoon rain is crucial for boosting crop output and lowering food prices, as a significant portion of India’s farmland relies on rainwater.