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Misreading monsoon

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Satellite image of evening cloud cover on 15 May 2019

As usual in May, there is a welter of forecasts and opinions about the monsoon, the great majority of which are short on understanding and shorter on elementary science. The media – newspapers, television news channels, their websites – are to blame for spreading half-baked forecasts and wild prognoses. Not one of the numerous newspapers and TV channels, whatever the language they employ, bother to provide their reporters a basic grounding in the climatological system that gives us our monsoon.

In the first place, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) issues an operational forecast for the south-west monsoon season (June to September) rainfall for the country as a whole in two stages. The first stage forecast is issued in April and the second stage forecast is issued in June. These forecasts are prepared using state-of-the-art Statistical Ensemble Forecasting system (SEFS) and using the dynamical coupled Ocean-Atmosphere global Climate Forecasting System (CFS) model developed under Monsoon Mission of the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

On 15 April 2019 the IMD issued its first stage forecast. Based on our own in-field observations from the west coast, from the patterns of maximum termperature bands and variations in the lower and central peninsular region, from the sea surface temperatures in the Arabian Sea particular its southerly reaches and ditto for the Bay of Bengal, and from the wind patterns that can be experienced at various places in the peninsula and on the west coast, we find the IMD first stage forecast to be reliable.

It is the chronically ignorant media – which over the last few years has displayed a tendency to prefer some so-called private sector weather forecasters instead of what the Ministry of Earth Sciences provides – found irresponsibly claiming that the monsoon of 2019 will be ‘deficient’ and will also begin ‘late’. Neither of these terms is sensible in any way, and we take no satisfaction in noting that only a media that is insensible to planetary and mesoscale events like climate, will employ such insensible terms in reporting that is meant to educate and benefit the public.

IMD’s April forecast used the following five predictors: 1. the Sea Surface Temperature (SST) Gradient between North Atlantic and North Pacific (in December and January), 2. the Equatorial South Indian Ocean SST (in February), 3. the East Asia Mean Sea Level Pressure (in February and March), 4. North-west Europe Land Surface Air Temperature (in January), and 5. Equatorial Pacific Warm Water Volume (in February and March).

There are two forecasts the IMD makes. One is based on the Monsoon Mission CFS Model, which considers global atmospheric and oceanic initial conditions up to March 2019 and use 47 ensemble members (or kinds of data). The forecast based on the CFS model suggests that the monsoon rainfall during the 2019 monsoon season (June to September) averaged over the country as a whole is likely to be 94% ± 5% of the Long Period Average (LPA).

The second is the forecast based on the operational Statistical Ensemble Forecasting system (SEFS). This shows that quantitatively, the monsoon seasonal rainfall is likely to be 96% of the Long Period Average (LPA) with a model error of ± 5%. The SEFS comprises five category probability forecasts for the June to September rainfall over the country as a whole:

Overall therefore the IMD forecast is for the 2019 monsoon rainfall to be near normal. The IMD has already pointed out (which can be seen from the probabilities of the categories given in the table) that there is only a small chance for the monsoon rainfall to be above normal or excess. In view of the weather events and the climatological changes that we are seeing from day to day in May, ascribing a ‘lateness’ to the monsoon is absurd. Monsoon conditions already exist in and over the Indian land mass and in and over the great watery zones extending southwards from latitude 8 degrees North – and that is why we will find rain-bearing clouds crossing the south-western coastline in the first week of June 2019.

(Reposted from India Climate Portal.)


Written by makanaka

May 16, 2019 at 18:14

5 Responses

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  1. Supremely well done, yet again, Makanaka. A must for all including,
    uninitiated, confused, irregular and misinforming.

    Pushpanath Krishnamurthy

    May 16, 2019 at 19:17

  2. Dear Sirs,

    Thanks so much for your detailed explanation of our Monsoons.

    For our knowledge, how is it hey arrived at Normal monsoon?

    Will they take 10 years average rainfall in a particular area?

    In and around Bengaluru, we suppose to receive pre and post monsoon rainfall right?

    We mean, during Kharif and Rabi seasons?

    Is it the Quantum that is taken into account OR The Distraction that is eh criterion to conclude that it is normal.

    Thank so much

    With kind regards

    *Joseph Britto*

    *Coordinator *

    ADITI Organic Certifications Pvt. Ltd.

    CIN: U01409KA2007PTC042101 No.38, 1st Floor, 20th Main Road, First Block, Rajajinagar, Bengaluru 560 010. Telephone: +91-80-23328134/135/136 Ext-115 Website:


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    [image: Mailtrack] Sender notified by Mailtrack 05/17/19, 9:35:30 AM

    On Thu, May 16, 2019 at 6:15 PM Resources Research wrote:

    > makanaka posted: ” As usual in May, there is a welter of forecasts and > opinions about the monsoon, the great majority of which are short on > understanding and shorter on elementary science. The media – newspapers, > television news channels, their websites – are to blame f” >


    May 17, 2019 at 09:35

    • Dear Joe, a good question indeed. The IMD bases its forecast of whether a monsoon will be ‘normal’ or not on what it calls a ‘long period average’. What is this average? It is a number called the ‘national’ annual average rainfall, added over 50 years, and then divided by 50 to become the long period average. This is an extremely misleading process, made worse because the 50 year period is 1951-2000. I’m sure you can spot all the many problems with having such an average.


      May 29, 2019 at 07:50

      • Hi Rahul, Whats the Forecast for Current Monsoon Season 2020
        Thanks Joe


        May 6, 2020 at 14:38

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