Red tapism hits weather prediction

Acquiring new equipment remains a distant dream

Red tapism hits weather prediction

Notwithstanding the deluge that devastated Uttarakhand last month, a scientific plan to improve the weather prediction system in the Himalayas is still caught in layers of bureaucratic red tapism.

The Rs 300-crore plan, which is yet to receive financial approval from the government, also does not have any provision for the snow gauge instrument that, scientists say, is essential to not only understand and forecast weather extremes in the mountain but also for an improved monsoon forecast.

Even though two deliverable services in the plan are meteorology service for Himalayan states and understanding glacier behaviour, absence of snow gauges might cripple the programme objectives, scientists familiar with the programme told Deccan Herald.

Indian Meteorological Department does not have any snow gauge instrument that measures the quantity of snow fall. Though Defence Research Development Organisation’s Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) operates few snow gauges, the numbers are inadequate.

The ministry’s idea is to use satellite images to determine the extent of snowfall and there are micro-satellites, which can measure the depth. But scientists would still prefer to have India’s own ground-based snow data to validate the satellite measurements.

A panel of experts headed by veteran meteorologist D R Sikka suggested procurement of snow gauges and installing them in the Himalayas, as a part of IMD modernisation, which began in the last decade.

“Previously, Himalayan snow cover was used as an input in monsoon forecast. We need to revisit the relations between snow cover and Indian monsoon for which ground-based data will be useful,” said another scientist.

Melting of snow triggered by heavy rainfall was one of the factors behind the devastating floods (in Uttarakhand), said Shailesh Nayak, secretary in the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
He admitted that absence of snow gauges was a gap in the programme, but asserted that scientists would get snow cover data from SASE instruments.

The Himalayan Meteorology programme seeks to install 10 Doppler radar, automatic weather stations and automatic rain gauges as the three primary data collection instruments. In addition, there will be satellite data.

As per the plan, Uttarakhand will have three Doppler radar at Mussorie, Nainital and Uttarkashi. There will be Doppler radar at Shimla and Srinagar as well.

But unlike the Doppler radar that the IMD is installing on the coast for cyclone warning system, the radar for the mountain would be either X-band or C-band radar. “S-band radar will not work in the Himalayas as the line of sight will be blocked by the mountain,” said Nayak.

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