Amid the election din comes the news that might have a bearing on how the new government begins its innings. If the Indian Meteorological Department’s (IMD) cautiously optimistic prediction of the major monsoon-bearing normal rainfall comes true, more than the government, people will be happy. Of course, these predictions must be taken with a pinch of salt as the chances of failure to predict accurately are also built into any long-term climate forecast beyond two weeks. Not even improved data collection and refined algorithms to integrate such data into climate prediction models based on a historical understanding of initial conditions have increased our ability to foresee beyond a fortnight. Also, it appears the IMD is somewhat inclined to put out these optimistic forecasts as a feel-good factor as it acts as the official forecaster for the government. The view of a few private weather forecasters is somewhat different on the coming monsoon.
The private weather forecasting agency SkyMet has predicted a below normal monsoon, basing its premise on the El Nino phenomenon, as the Pacific Ocean has become strongly warmer than average. This may affect the prospects of rain in June-July and a swathe of central India and the Northeast is predicted to face deficient rainfall. But as food production data shows, the nation is not solely dependent on quantum of rainfall, as the monsoon deficient 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons proved, with foodgrain production faring better than in normal monsoon years. Even so, there is nothing like a normal monsoon to get the rural economy bubbling and it really needs a boost at a time when rural distress has been building up. Monsoon forecasting, despite all the science, study of data, historical factors and building of statistical models, is still inspired guesswork when it comes to naming the final percentage of rain. Bountiful rain is often considered the luck of the people and their rulers.