KOCHI: The inadequacy of a weather monitoring system in the state was exposed during the devastating flood in August 2018, when Kerala failed to monitor the gravity of the extreme rainfall and take steps to avoid loss of life and property. Three years on, as the state awaits the onset of monsoon, the situation has not improved. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has only 21 automatic weather stations (AWS) of which only 15 are functional.
After the 2018 flood, the Kerala government had approached the Ministry of Home Affairs and National Disaster Management Authority seeking to direct the IMD to establish at least 256 weather monitoring stations in the state. Though the IMD had promised to establish 100 AWSes immediately, there has not been much progress.
On October 3, 2019, the IMD director had agreed to establish 100 AWSes and the state government handed over 10-sq-m land at each of these locations for establishing the weather monitoring stations. The IMD approved 73 of these locations and a second list of 65 sites was provided to the IMD in May 2020 for the remaining 27 AWSes. However, nothing has happened.
At present, the IMD has only 68 functional manual rain gauges in Kerala. As per the BIS standards, Kerala requires 256 weather stations. In addition to this, real-time monitoring of rainfall is also important in disaster management. We need hyper-local forecast of extreme climatic events to evacuate people and take precautions,” said an official with the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA).
“We have checked the locations provided in the state and submitted a report to the authorities concerned. Some of the locations do not have the network coverage for GPS transmission. Once the approval is granted, we will start establishing the weather stations,” said an IMD official.
Skymet Weather Services, a private weather forecaster with 93 weather stations in Kerala, had announced the onset of monsoon in Kerala on Sunday. But, IMD said in its bulletin that the monsoon will set in only on June 3.As per the IMD norms, 60 per cent of the 14 listed weather stations should report 2.5mm of rainfall for two consecutive days for declaration of the onset of monsoon. Other parameters are the strength of westerly winds and outgoing long-wave radiation.
“The KSDMA is not concerned about the date of onset. We need information about the intensity of rain at the local level. We analysed the forecast of 22 international agencies of which five have predicted a below-normal monsoon. Considering the requirement of real-time observations, we have sourced weather data from various private agencies like Skymet and Weather Company. If the IMD provides data from 100 locations, it will be very helpful,” said KSDMA member secretary Sekhar Lukose Kuriakose.
It seems cyclones Tauktae in the Arabian Sea and Yaas in the Bay of Bengal have disturbed the progress of monsoon. “Kerala should establish its own weather stations at these locations. We should have a weather forecasting model incorporating local conditions,” said Cusat Department of Atmospheric Sciences associate professor S Abhilash.