India Meteorological Department (IMD), the country's official weather forecaster, has predicted that monsoon will reach Kerala on May 30, two days before the schedule.
Monsoon's date with Kerala is crucial as it signals the beginning of the rainy season, which advances northwards in the following days and covers the entire country. As 54 per cent of the gross cropped area in India is rain-fed, monsoon rainfall is critical to Indian agriculture.
IMD's prediction also strengthens the stand it had taken a month earlier, when its first-stage long-range (June-September) forecast stated that this year's monsoon could be normal (96 per cent with a model error of +/- 5). The department will come up with its second forecast in June.
The technical predictors used to predict the onset of monsoon in Kerala include minimum temperatures over north-west India, pre-monsoon rainfall peak over south peninsula, outgoing long-wave radiation (OLR) over South China Sea, lower tropospheric zonal wind over southeast Indian Ocean, upper tropospheric zonal wind over the east equatorial Indian Ocean and outgoing OLR over the south-west Pacific region.
Meanwhile, the long-range forecasts are prepared using the state-of-the-art statistical ensemble forecasting system (SEFS). Since 2012, IMD has been using the dynamical global climate forecasting system (CFS), which was developed under the Monsoon Mission. The original, coupled with the ocean-atmospheric model framework of CFS, was adopted from the US's National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). The CFS model was further modified to provide improved rainfall forecasts for the Indian monsoon region through research efforts taken up under the Monsoon Mission. The forecast for 2017 southwest monsoon rainfall over the country as a whole is based on both SEFS and the Monsoon Mission CFS (MMCFS).
According to IMD estimates, the pre-monsoon rainfall has been normal or excessive in south and north-east India during March 1-May 10, 2017.
The prediction seems to be on track. A normal monsoon helps farmers reap good crops, but that does not ensure better livelihoods. There should be more predictability in terms of agricultural products prices that will help farmers choose their crops for this Kharif season.
What's more, Ram Vilas Paswan, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, has requested state governments to lift the stock limit restrictions on pulses. Creating a level playing field will do away with supply bottlenecks and ensure better, predicable price realisation.
The government's move has to sync with IMD predictions to benefit farmers.