Real-time weather forecasting is here

But farmers are yet to access it for lack of Kannada texting on cellphones

Karnataka is also the first State to put to use the model - Meso Scale Forecast or 'now casting', where real time weather alerts including time, duration, location of rainfall, temperature, wind direction, humidity and soil temperature are being sent out via SMS to those in the agriculture and energy sectors.

Karnataka State Natural Disaster Management Cell (KSNDMC) operationalised this techology mainly for the agriculture sector. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been able to make the most of it, as the department is literally lost in translation, leaving farmers to rely on traditional methods to predict weather changes.

With the assistance of Center for Mathematical Modeling and Computer Simulation (C-MMACS), KSNDMC was able to generate the synoptic data, with round-the-clock forecasting in real time. The experts also developed a module to generate SMSes in both Kannada and English.

But sending out SMSes in Kannada has turned out to be way too tricky than the Cell had anticipated.

KSNDMC Director V S Prakash said that Meso Scale model is far superior to the long range forecast that was used till recently. Many farmers have been benefited largely from the model. While it is easy to send messages in English, it is complicated to do so in Kannada, as a majority of the cell phone service providers do not support Kannada texting.

The English alerts are of no use to the farmers, as a majority of them can’t read that language. So, the messages are texted or email alerts are sent to agriculture officials in Raita Samparka Kendras at the hobli level and to experts in agriculture universities.

Prakash said that the government is not addressing this particular problem. “Crores of rupees were spent on hosting the World Kannada summit and organising the Kannada Sahitya Sammelanas, but practical problems like the one we have is not addressed by anyone”, he said. As a temporary measure, the Cell is now in the process of putting in place a database comprising phone numbers of at least 10 farmers from every hobli, who will receive the English alerts. Phone numbers of farmers from 18 to 19 districts have already been collected, Prakash said.

So far, weather experts haven't been able to develop a technology that is precise in terms of location, time and intensity, and would help to call for an evacuation during a natural disaster or to even just caution. With Meso Scale forecasting, scientists believe they now have such a technology.

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