Private weather forecaster Skymet expects the upcoming monsoon to be "normal".

"Negative sea surface temperature anomalies in the equatorial Pacific Ocean are weakening. This warming inclination of the Pacific Ocean, albeit within neutral limits, may not lead to an above-normal or excess rainfall but chances of a 'corrupt' monsoon are also ruled out. This could be one of the ‘normal’ monsoon years making a robust start and finishing around the midway mark of the normal range," the weather agency says.

A normal, or average, monsoon means rainfall between 96% and 104% of a 50-year average of 89 cm (35 inches) in total during the four-month monsoon season from June to September, according to the India Meteorological Department's (IMD) classification.

The preliminary forecast predicts a decline in the probability of continued La Nina, which sees episodes of cooler than average sea surface temperature in the equatorial Pacific. The last two monsoon seasons were aided by back-to-back La Nina events.

"After observing back-to-back La Nina during 2020 & 2021, the chances of yet another episode are ruled out, statistically. The sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific are likely to rise soon and the probability of continued La Nina will fall," says GP Sharma, president – Meteorology and Climate Change, Skymet Weather.

The monsoon is critical for agriculture in the country since nearly 60% of India's net arable land lacks irrigation. The monsoon delivers about 70% of India's annual rainfall and determines the yield of several grains and pulses, including rice, wheat, and sugarcane. The rains are also crucial to keep up the rural demand.

While the monsoon has large fluctuations in its arrival, intensity, duration, and withdrawal, there are precursors to get an early glimpse and gauge its health during the four-month-long season, according to Skymet.

"El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) predictability decreases during the upcoming 'spring barrier' and at times leads to an unstable ENSO regime. This will get factored in our April forecast. While the monsoon trough is over the South Tropical Indian Ocean, IOD events are typically unable to form till April. Reliable trends of 'Indian Ocean Dipole' emerge in the latter half of it. Early indications suggest it to be 'neutral' but leaning close to the negative threshold. IOD-ENSO interaction will hold the key to the overall health of Indian Summer Monsoon 2022," Sharma says. Skymet said it will release a detailed report on the prospects of Monsoon 2022 in April.

A normal monsoon may also lead to higher agriculture yield, easing pressure on food prices and the overall retail inflation.

The Reserve Bank of India expects CPI-based inflation to moderate to 4.5% in FY23. "On the assumption of a normal monsoon in 2022, CPI inflation for 2022-23 is projected at 4.5% with Q1:2022-23 at 4.9%; Q2 at 5%; Q3 at 4%; and Q4:2022-23 at 4.2%, with risks broadly balanced," the central bank had said in its monetary policy statement earlier this month.

Skymet said it is in the process of gathering data sets pertinent for a comprehensive monsoon forecast. "Ascertaining authenticity is absolutely essential and that is a long-drawn procedure. Therefore, it is a bit premature to share the collated figures but suffice to present preliminary guidance," it says.

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