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India’s weather forecast system can now match global giants

2017 monsoon forecast
IMD is now focusing more on rainfed agriculture.

India has come a long way and the weather forecasting system has improved substantially. Off late, the Ministry of Earth Sciences has started with many flagship projects to further boost the weather forecasting services.

“Monsoon predictions are based on the best signs available and the data collected up to that point of time. Based on our best tools and best wisdom available, it is most representative assessment we have made. We feel that should turn out to be right,” said Dr K. J. Ramesh, Director General, Indian Meteorological Department (IMD). While in the past IMD’s weather forecast on many occasions did not fall on the dot, but with latest technological advancements, the Indian weather services has come at power with the US weather services.

In today’s scenario where the Indian government is focussing more on manufacturing and promoting “Make In India “ motto, the country’s 60% of the population is still dependent on agriculture yields. And agriculture in India is heavily dependent on the monsoon. So, accurate monsoon/weather forecasting has become an essential factor for the progress of the economy.

Some of the major initiatives
2017 monsoon prediction
Monsoon has already hit Kerala in India.

Farmers have been provided with agro-meteorological advisory services to plan the day-to-day work schedule. They get forecast of five days as well as next 15-20 days.  At present, the technology reaches 21 million farmers through SMS as compared to 7 million in 2014. By end of this year, it will become 30 to 32 million farmers.

“Farmers need forecast at a very high resolution so we are planning block level forecasts by 2019 through 100 distinct centers. They are being established in collaboration with ICAR Krishi Vigyan Kendras,” said Dr M Rajeevan, Secretary, Earth Sciences Ministry, in a PIB press conference celebrating NDA government’s three-year completion.

He added, “For this, we need a very high-resolution model so we have developed 12-km global weather prediction model for block level weather forecasts. We will be covering 5,600 blocks.”

Such hi-tech model will also require high performance computer. Hence, five computers of 10 petaflop capacity are being commissioned by November 2017. They are 10-times faster than the present computer and are one of the best in the world.

Apart from this, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Ministry of Science & Technology, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Ministry of Earth Sciences at the event said, “Additional 400-crore (4,000 million) monsoon mission has been launched. With agromet services already reaching 21 million farmers and about to reach about 32 million farmers by this year, the services will provide a positive impact on the GDP worth about Rs 50,000 crore ($7.75 billion).”

The ministry has introduced ingenious development of advanced dynamical models for monsoon prediction — short time, medium, seasonal forecast. This time the IMD has used seasonal forecast for 2017 based on a dynamical model. The second level forecast will come out in the first week of June. The IMD had successfully predicted deficient monsoon of 2015.

This time it is good news: 2017 is slated to have a good monsoon spell. “At the moment the probability of strong El Nino developing at the later part of the monsoon season is reducing. This we had indicated in our first long range forecast assessment issued on April 18 and it turned out to be right although all other global centers said the opposite. Independently, Australia and other global centers are now saying that the prospects of El Nino seem to be decreasing,” said IMD Director General.

IMD repositioning as per demand

2017 monsoon predictionThe Indian Meteorological Department is following the trend and has repositioned itself as per demand. Like in agriculture sector, apart from giving weather-based agro advisory services, this time the IMD has brought distinction between rainfed agriculture and irrigated agriculture. Rainfed agriculture was very important in 2015 when there was sporadic rain distribution. Yields of pulses, cereals, oil seeds, etc. were scanty and hence there was a huge jump in their prices. This time the department will focus on rainfed agriculture more

Apart from giving a seasonal level forecast, the IMD gives everyday 10-day outlook of rainfall and every week giving four weeks update of monsoon. This is an additional advancement.

GIS tools to help in a big way

Apart from satellite imagery and data, the IMD is going to introduce more GIS-based tools on their Web platform. The technology will give an impetus to location-specific features of the forecast. In fact, IMD is working with TCS to develop WebGIS application and NRSC to host all satellite and observation products on the Bhuvan platform.

Other than this, other projects that the IMD is looking at that involve GIS technology are:

  • Real-time highway forecast across the major national highways, especially Golden Quadrilateral, to see where severe weather is likely to develop.
  • Railways will be provided with visibility sensors. For each railway zone, there will be customized information made.
  • Website will be made user-friendly
  • Providing accurate aviation metrological information to more airports. At present, 70 airports get this service.

GIS will help in planning the actions and recording the events. Also, it will simplify data and help to strengthen disaster alert systems.

Also read: Now, India is more equipped in disaster management

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