Ajit Tyagi
Air Vice Marshal (Retd) Former Director General,
India Meteorological Department,
New Delhi.

Agriculture remains one of the most important sectors of the Indian economy with 60 per cent of the net sown area being classified as rainfed—heavily dependent on the monsoon. Such is the importance of this phenomenon, that concerns over the performance of monsoon have been articulated by the former finance minister, Arun Jaitley, in his February 2017 budget speech and more recently in June 2019 by Shaktikanta Das, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. Quite naturally, policy makers, farmers and the general public rely on accurate predictions to plan for the season. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) began monsoon forecasting soon after its inception. The first official seasonal forecast was issued by Henry Blanford in 1886 which was based entirely on the Himalayan snowfall. This was followed by a second forecasting technique by Gilbert Walker—formulated through statistical association. He was also the first meteorologist to issue forecast based on regression equation that used 28 predictors in 1906. Since then, profound advancements in the field have taken shape. This special issue provides insight into various aspects of monsoon forecasts and their multiple applications. The latest developments by IMD and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) have also been presented. The IMD now uses both statistical and dynamical models for monsoon prediction— and has adopted the extended range prediction technique developed by IITM. The issue also explores monsoon variability which may precipitate disasters such as drought, thus necessitating an effective drought monitoring system. Early warnings relating to such cataclysms, frequent weather updates and advisories can help enhance India’s agricultural output. Furthermore, the issue includes an interview with K J Ramesh, the Director General of IMD, wherein his views on the aforementioned subjects are presented.