NEWDELHI: The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) came under severe criticism during the 2011 monsoons for failing to predict changing weather patterns. The trend continued into the foggy days of the new year, here in the capital, when daily predictions by the weatherman went haywire. This after IMD spent almost Rs 920 crore in the 11th Five Year Plan (FYP) between 2007-12, on upgrading technology and equipment in their department. And now, it’s getting ready to spend Rs 1,400 crore on yet another upgrade in the year 2012-2014.
When queried about the justification of the criticism IMD received last year, the director of weather forecast (scientist E) at IMD, B P Yadav said, “Let me clearly say that there are uncertainties in any prediction. However, even if it is inaccurate, some useful information is always there.”
Yadav contested the fact that IMD’s forecast is unreliable. He said he doesn’t believe that it’s unreliable any more. “In fact, the public perception of the department is changing. We’re having more interaction with people and agencies and getting more feedback. For forecasts of upto five days, we’re almost on target. Our prediction of the monsoon, fog, has improved tremendously. Predictions of cyclones has also vastly improved over the last decade,” Yadav said.
He added that with the technological upgrades, warnings of heavy rainfall, snowstorms and thunderstorms has improved. “Our predictions for Delhi will prove that people were happy with our performance. I don’t think they will say we are 100 per cent right, but we are doing well,” Yadav said.
Yadav said that IMD’s data is used by important departments like the Ministry of Agriculture, disaster management departments, Aviation Ministry, Home Ministry and other stakeholders. He said that the department understands it can’t sit on past laurels, and for that, IMD has to increase its reach to many sectors, for which it has to increase its data’s usability and applicability. The department has to further its weather prediction accuracy. For this purpose, IMD facilities have undergone a high-impact technological upgrade in the last five years. This has helped them in doing targeted studies for forecasting of fog, thunderstorms, monsoon and cyclones.
Explaining the tech upgrade that cost Rs 920 crore, Satish Bhatia, deputy director in-charge of modernisation (scientist F), said, “The modernisation of IMD was started in 2007 to make it at-par with the world’s best. Under Phase 1 of the project, almost Rs 920 crore have been spent, from 2007 on. The money was spent to integrate the existing observation system and to buy new digital automatic forecasting equipment from Meteo, France”
Bhatia said that the state-of-the-art equipment procured in the upgrade were 13 Doppler Weather Radars (DWR), 10 GPS-based radio sondes, 550 automatic weather stations (AWS), 1,350 automatic rain gauges (ARG), 70 advanced Theodolites, which tracks winds, and an automatic message switching system for communication. All of it was installed at IMD facilities across the country. With Phase 1 nearing completion, modernisation Phase 2&3 will be implemented in the 12th FYP, between 2012-2017.
Bhatia said, “In Phase 2&3, further densification of monitoring systems has been planned, under which 200 ARGs, 400 AWSs, 13 DWRs, two weather profilers, 14 GPS-based radio sondes and modernisation of airport runways across India will happen.”
With so much cash being pumped in, let’s hope the weatherman gets it right the next time!