CHENNAI: Weather forecast operations are feeling the trickle-down effect of Covid-19 pandemic. Roughly a week after the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) stated that meteorological measurements taken from aircraft have plummeted by 90 per cent globally, it has come to light that scientists have missed crucial and periodic servicing of Indian mooring buoys network deployed in the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal.
The Union Ministry of Earth Sciences has been implementing a major programme on ocean observations system since 1996. The system has been designed to acquire real-time data on various parameters from the seas around India including from the larger Indian Ocean Region to deliver a wide range of operational services such as issuing early warning on tsunami and storm surges.
Satheesh C Shenoi, Director, Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) told Express that India has a network of 19 mooring buoys, of which 6 are tsunami buoys. Besides, under the Indo-US joint partnership, there are 32 buoys that need to be kept in good health. “Our team sailed from Chennai on board research vessel Sagar Nidhi in mid March on a month-long voyage to check on tsunami buoys. Then came the lockdown restrictions. The vessel has been stuck at Thoothukudi port for last two weeks,” he said.
Shenoi said all the buoys should have been serviced by now. “They have to be maintained, calibrated and resupplied. It is an unprecedented situation. When the monsoon sets in, the sea condition would make the job difficult. However, these systems will not fail immediately.
Lack of maintenance would only increase the risk of breakdowns.” Meanwhile, a senior official at National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) told Express that a scientific team will sail out immediately after the lockdown ends on May 17. Ministry of Earth Sciences Secretary M Rajeevan Nair said: “We are closely monitoring the situation. We will try to fix issues before monsoon onset.”