Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Rain Watch: Season ends with normal monsoon despite El Niño risks

In this concluding part of Forbes India's weekly series Rain Watch, we analyse how monsoon fared overall this year, if El Niño impacted rainfall, and a kharif crop sowing status check

Published: Oct 3, 2023 06:00:20 PM IST
Updated: Oct 17, 2023 03:08:48 PM IST

Rain Watch: Season ends with normal monsoon despite El Niño risksLocals fish in the overflowing waters of the Daya river on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, following release of water from the Hirakud Dam on the Mahanadi river after heavy rainfall Image: STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images
 
With a late surge in rain, the monsoon season has ended ‘normal’ despite erratic and uneven patches, and dry spells in a few regions. While sowing is completed, water storage levels are expected to rise further, with excess rains in North and Central India.

Cumulative rainfall in this year’s monsoon season, from June 1 to September 28, was 6 percent below the long-period average (LPA), according to Barclays analysis based on Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) data. This is the fifth consecutive year of ‘normal’ monsoon conditions.

Monsoon rainfall, as a whole, was 94 percent of its LPA, says IMD. “The Southwest monsoon seasonal rainfall over the monsoon core zone, which consists of most of the rainfed agriculture regions in the country, received 101 percent of LPA and thus was normal [94-106 percent of LPA],” it adds. Month-wise, it was 91 percent of LPA in June, 113 percent of LPA in July, 64 percent of LPA in August, and 113 percent of LPA in September. Rainfall deficiency was highest during August, with excess in July and September. Typically, rainfall within +/-10 percent is considered ‘normal’ for the pan-India region, as per IMD.

Rain Watch: Season ends with normal monsoon despite El Niño risks

This year monsoon began its retreat on September 25, around eight days later than usual. Even as there was a delay in monsoon in late June, it picked up substantially in the crucial kharif sowing month of July. However, a very dry August raised concerns over the pace of sowing. Monsoon had set in India, starting with Kerala on June 8, as per IMD forecast.

Rainfall in September was ‘normal-to-above normal’ for most parts (northwest, central, southern and some eastern states), providing relief for kharif sowing, reducing the deficit from August. Spatially, 25 out of 36 subdivisions received normal rainfall at the end of the season.

Rain Watch: Season ends with normal monsoon despite El Niño risks

Rainfall distribution was relatively better in 2023, compared with the previous five years. While the development of El Niño conditions in May had created risks to the monsoon, and some impact was felt as rainfall in 2023 was lower than the previous years (which were La Niña periods), overall rainfall was still higher (as percent of deviation from normal) compared with the last El Niño year of 2018, says Rahul Bajoria, managing director, head of EM Asia (ex-China), Economics, Barclays.

Historically, El Niño conditions have led to below-average rainfall in India, while most La Niña years result in above-average precipitation or rainfall. This is mostly attributed to warming of sea surface temperatures in central and eastern Pacific during El Niño events, leading to shifts in atmospheric circulation patterns that can subsequently impact the Indian monsoon.

Also read: Rain watch for September 21-27: Monsoon at fag end, pulses sowing lags

Rain Watch: Season ends with normal monsoon despite El Niño risks
 
According to IMD, 2023 serves as an illustrative example of a complex interplay of various factors as in this El Niño year, India experienced below-average rainfall. “Yet, the presence of the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) during the monsoon's latter phase offset this deficiency, bringing the rainfall anomaly within the standard deviation,” IMD explains.

Rain Watch: Season ends with normal monsoon despite El Niño risks

Data showed sowing of rice (2.7 percent), coarse cereals (1.3 percent), and sugarcane (7.6 percent) were higher on a year-on-year basis. Sowing deficit in pulses has also reduced but sowing of cotton was lower (-3.3 percent). As of September 22, sowing of pulses was at -4.6 percent year-on-year, compared with around -9 percent in August. However, since the first advance estimates of kharif agriculture production are yet to be released, the impact on yields is unclear.

Rain Watch: Season ends with normal monsoon despite El Niño risks

Reservoir levels stand at 71 percent of live capacity as on September 21, lower than the average of the past five years at the same point in the season. With excess rainfall in central and eastern regions over the past week, water holding levels should improve by the end of the month, says Barclays.

Rain Watch: Season ends with normal monsoon despite El Niño risks

This is the concluding part of Forbes India’s weekly series Rain Watch, started in June where we simplified rainfall status, water reservoir levels and sowing pattern of kharif crops data analysis by Barclays.

Rain Watch: Season ends with normal monsoon despite El Niño risks

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