Urgent requirement: Adequate weather monitoring system in Kerala

Only 15 of IMD’s 21 automatic weather stations function; state needs 256 such stations
For representational purposes
For representational purposes

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.

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