Weather forecasting set to make an impressive leap

Weather forecasting set to make an impressive leap

As a part of the modernisation programme, the met agency was given a budget of Rs 866 crore to substantially spruce up weather services before the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The rest will be done in the remaining two years of the 11th Plan. With less than a year left for the Commonwealth Games, IMD director general Ajit Tyagi told Kalyan Ray of Deccan Herald, about the progress made. Excerpts:

Improving the quality of weather forecast before the Commonwealth Games was one of the tasks for the IMD. How much has been achieved?

IMD modernisation is for the entire country though Commonwealth Games is an important component in the first phase. To improve forecasting capabilities, you have to have good quality data from land, ocean and adjoining areas. High-powered computing is needed to run high-resolution models and finally an effective telecommunication system is required to disseminate information. In the first phase, IMD is in the process of setting up 1,350 automatic rain gauges (ARG), 550 automatic weather stations (AWS), 13 Doppler weather radar, 10 upper air GPS sonde, 10 lightning detection systems, five wind profilers and high-power computing in Delhi, Pune and Hyderabad besides improving our communication.

What will be the distribution of new instruments?

In each district there should be one AWS. Already there are 125 AWS. We aim to have at least one AWS in each district and two ARGs.

What’s the timeline for setting up these instruments?

We have installed 150 ARGs and will be able to install all of them by March 2010. Out of 550 AWS, 70 have been installed. Orders were placed for 13 Doppler weather radars (DWR) for which buildings are getting ready. By the year end we will start installing them. The first Doppler radar will be established in Delhi (Palam station) by October-November.

What are the other sites for the new DWRs?

Doppler radars will be placed along the coast wherever the gaps are as we already have some DWRs along the coast. New DWR sites are Mumbai, Goa, Kariakal, Paradip, Mohanbari, Patna, Lucknow, Patiala, Nagpur and Bhopal. They will be operational by June 2010 before the next monsoon. Over and above the 12 imported DWRs, two indigenous DWRs will be installed at Bhuj and Kochi. The radars are being made by Bharat Electronics Ltd using Indian Space Research Organisation technology.

There were controversies on the choice of buying the DWRs from abroad ignoring the ISRO Doppler radar...
When it comes to operational areas, we have to have the best technology. A Request for Proposal was issued and the technical evaluation committee decided which radar is better. It was a purely competitive bid and whoever qualified we have to take. If Metstar comes with Chinese component, we cannot help it.

What are the specific plans for the Commonwealth Games?

For the Games, we will have short-range and medium-range forecast. The data from 60 AWS will be put into a high-resolution computing system (Now-cast) that will generate stadium-specific forecast in every three hours. It will predict temperature, rain, humidity and adverse weather conditions for all locations.
Besides the DWR in Delhi, the national capital will have one upper air radio sonde, three wind profilers at Delhi, Jaipur, Agra and five lightning detection systems. All will provide inputs to this model.

All these require lots of computing power?

The data will be integrated in a central server and then we will have a numerical prediction model of very high-resolution. We are installing a 25 teraflop IBM supercomputer at the IMD headquarters, which will be complete by October. Three more supercomputers are being installed in institutes under the ministry of earth sciences in Pune, Hyderabad and Delhi.

One of the major components in the modernisation programme was to upgrade the meteorological services at the airports. How much progress has been made?

Airport modernisation in the first phase has a budget of Rs 250 crore. We have installed automatic airport observation systems at both ends of the runway. We plan to have these systems installed in eight international airports. They will be in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Jaipur, Chennai, Amritsar and Guwahati. In the first five cities, the systems are in place and work will be over for the remaining three cities in the next couple of months. For three runways in Delhi airport, there are seven systems.

What are the targets for the second phase?

Whatever we are leaving behind will be completed in the second phase. It includes setting up of remaining 2,500 ARGs by 2012. Also 26 C-band storm radars complimenting the DWR in the second phase will be installed. Also 50 domestic airports will be upgraded. Many equipment like wind profilers and lightning detection systems are coming for the first time. So we would to like to get trained, understand their utility and then go for big numbers in the second phase.