Thursday, August 8, 2013

The dire need for more accurate meteorological forecasts

After Cyclone Nilam which battered Andhra Pradesh killing 24 people in Oct2012 and the recent (Jun2013) Uttarakhand disaster, bureaucrats and politicians of the states took pot shots at meteorologists for not giving adequate and more accurate warning about the onset/intensity of adverse weather due to which the devastation occurred. While this sort of behavior maybe habitual amongst babus and their political masters, modern technology places much information about the occurrence/ movement of weather systems in the hands of an internet user and STH has tracked all major weather systems in the Bay of Bengal since 2007.
However, the fact remains that meteorology is still a developing and inexact science and this is problem is further accentuated in remote mountainous regions due to non-availability of sensors and data from such areas which are required to make weather predictions more accurate.
Towards this end, the IMetD website posts a heavy rainfall warning over SubHimalayan West Bengal and Sikkim for almost 80% of the entire monsoon period (see example-Slide1) whereas, in actual fact, we had a 45% deficiency in rainfall during the past week (Slide 2) and also in July2013.
For someone working in Disaster Management this sort of contradiction poses a predicament as crying wolf too often defeats the very purpose of the warning.
The installation of AWS and ARG stations in mountainous areas is a step in the right direction as this would enable better monitoring of rainfall patterns in the hills and the planned installation of Doppler radar in Sikkim would certainly go a long way towards more accurate meteorological predictions in this area.

Praful Rao
Dist Darjeeling

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