Not so long ago, the weatherman was the butt of jokes in the country. Magazines were littered with cartoons on weather predictions. Some carried an umbrella every time they stepped out, regardless of the dry forecast given for the day on TV news.
But thanks to the budgetary allocations and the technological advancements made, the IMD – Indian Meteorological Department – is only drawing respect from the common man now.
“Given the calm weather on Saturday evening we thought the media is making unnecessary fuss and the government making needless safety arrangements. But the weather changed in matter of hours and the storm lashed us left and right exactly according to the IMD predictions,” Subrahmanyam Vankayala (55), a businessman gushed excitedly.
At least two massive storms in recent times – Phailin in 2013 and Hudhud in 2014 – have proved the accuracy gained by the Indian weatherman.
And this accuracy came over the last decade or so – with the use of Numerical Weather Models, installation of Doppler Weather Radars (first one at Chennai in 2002) and the launch of a dedicated meteorological satellite– Kalpana (MetSat-1) in 2002.
There are two more weather satellites in the skies now – INSAT3A and INSAT3D with better precision in the weather imagery.
“In the olden days, we used apparatus like wind, thermometers to make the weather charts. Assessments were elemental and if the cyclone changed course the prediction would invariably go wrong,” said K Seetha Ram, Scientist E, Meteorological Centre at Hyderabad.
Apart from the streamlined coordination with other agencies like ISRO, NRSA what is aiding the Indian met officials now-a-days is the synchronized flow of weather forecasts from all over the world like from the NASA.
It is this foolproof info on cyclonic storms – coming days in advance and with time to time revisions in course - that is aiding the government to evacuate people in advance and deploy the NDRF etc teams for the rescue operations.
“Yes, with storms we are very accurate now. But normal rains are mostly as erratic as before – if I say it will rain it might not in that locality thus drawing some laughs at us,” another scientist at the centre jokingly said.