IMD forecast accurate

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has come out with flying colours, accurately forecasting the intensity and landfall site of cyclone “Hudhud” five days in advance.

This helped the administration evacuate more than four lakh people and limit the loss of life. Now, compare this with the 1999 Odisha super cyclone that killed more than 10,000 people and led to an economic loss of $ 2.5 billion.

No doubt, the super cyclone hit the coast with a wind speed of about 260 km, but meteorologists claim that the Indian cyclone warning system was overhauled in the last decade leading to the current success.

“In the last four to five years, the accuracy in cyclone prediction improved by 30-40 per cent. Since 2012, we are giving the forecast five days in advance to aid the administration,” Ajit Tyagi, former IMD director-general told Deccan Herald.

An year ago, came cyclone “Phailin”, which was the most severe cyclone since the 1999 one. “Phailin” made landfall near Gopalpur in Odisha, but the damage was minimum with 22 deaths, thanks to IMD’s advance warning.

While more than 5.5 lakh people were taken to safer location by the Odisha and Andhra Pradesh administration before “Phailin” entered the states, this time the state governments evacuated more than four lakh individuals in the last five days to protect them from the fury of “Hudhud”.

Earlier, the IMD forecast used to come only 24 hours in advance. The practice was changed to three days since 2008 and five days from 2012.

“In the last seven years, there is a sea change in IMD’s cyclone warning capacity that led to the success,” M Mohapatra, who heads the IMD’s cyclone warning division told Deccan Herald.

The meteorological agency has 20 data buoys in the Bay of Bengal, around 100 automated weather stations, six Doppler radars including one from the space department on the east coast, a wind-profiler near Tirupati and satellite images.

All these platforms are used to feed data to several global weather models (such as ARPS, MMS, WRF and HWRF) that Indian weather researchers use at the moment. “Three more Doppler radars will be set up at Paradip, Karaikal and Gopalpur in the next one year to further improve the forecast accuracy,” Tyagi said.

When compared with two of the world’s most stormy regions, IMD officials claim its predictions are at par with the alerts in the North West Pacific, but lags behind the warning issued in the North Atlantic region. “It’s because North Atlantic uses 10 aircraft to fly into a storm and feed real time data to the model,” said Mohapatra.

Better coordination with national and state level disaster management authorities has led to information dissemination and saved lives. “Due to lack of awareness in people, 1,38,000 people died in Myanmar when cyclone Nargis hit in 2008,” he observed.

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