The monsoon will arrive early in India this year, the national weather office said, bringing hopes of a much-needed respite from a record-breaking heatwave.
“We have a prediction for monsoon advance over Andaman [and Nicobar] islands and Kerala which will be around May 27,” India Meteorological Department director general Dr Mrutyunjay Mohapatra told The National.
"As monsoon advances, temperature will definitely decrease in other parts of the country.
“We don’t have the exact dates for other parts as of now. Once monsoon advances over Kerala we will have a forecast, but monsoon is early this year.”
The weather bureau has predicted that the first showers were likely to hit the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands, at the southern edge of Bay of Bengal, around May 15 — about a week before the usual onset of the rainy season.
“Fairly widespread to widespread, light to moderate rainfall is very likely over Andaman and Nicobar islands during the next five days. Isolated heavy rainfall is very likely over the region from May 14 to 16,” the bureau said on Thursday.
It said winds of up to 60kph were also likely in the area. Rain is expected in parts of Kerala state in south-west India and the Lakshadweep archipelago in the Arabian Sea from May 26 to 27.
The monsoon enters India's mainland from Kerala, which receives rain from about June 1, but the weather office has predicted its arrival a week early due to Cyclone Asani.
The severe storm raged for nearly a week in the Bay of Bengal and adjoining south Andaman Sea before it was concentrated into a depression on May 12.
“We are expecting monsoon to reach Kerala coast by May 26 and pre-monsoon in mainland India by the fag-end of May and early June,” Mahesh Palawat, vice president of private forecaster Skymet Weather, told The National.
"Usually the monsoon touches Kerala around June 1 but this year it is expected early. The cyclonic activity has strengthened the cross-equatorial flow of southwestern events helping early onset of monsoons."
The monsoon system then gradually moves north-west, covering the entire subcontinent over the next three months. The country receives about 75 per cent of its rainfall during this period.
Rainfall's huge impact on economy
India’s agriculture depends heavily on the monsoon as it irrigates more than half of the crop-growing areas. The amount of rainfall determines agricultural output and the country's economy and trade.
The news of early monsoon has come as a massive relief for northern, north-western and eastern states that have been reeling under a severe spell of heatwave.
The temperature in several parts of the capital Delhi reached 44°C to 45°C on Thursday, while at least 29 cities across the states of Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh recorded temperatures above 44°C. Barmer in Rajasthan recorded 48°C.
Many regions in the country are experiencing severe power cuts and water scarcity, making it more difficult for residents to cope with the heat.