A Doppler Weather Radar (DWR) would have helped Mumbai prepare better for Cyclone Phyan, which passed by the city last week without inflicting major damage but killed 15 people along the Konkan coast.
This is one of the findings of a preliminary report on Cyclone Phyan by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), Delhi.
Phyan crossed Maharashtra on November 11, brushing past areas on the Konkan coast and leaving 88 fishermen missing even after four days of search operations.
The Doppler radar, a state-of-the art weather forecasting system, was to be installed in Mumbai by the IMD after the July 26, 2005, deluge that saw 944 mm rain hit the city in 24 hours.
The Rs 12-crore radar was brought to Mumbai from China in March 2009, but permission to install it atop a building in Navy Nagar, south Mumbai, is yet to come from the Defence Ministry in Delhi.
“We are yet to hear from them about this. The chief minister has also written to them on the issue,” said RV Sharma, deputy director general, IMD, Mumbai.
The system, which uses microwaves, can accurately predict turbulent thunderstorms and cyclones that are hours away. It can also give five-minute updates, and track changing weather compositions up to about 200 km from the radar installation.
“The simple difference between the satellite we’ve been using for predictions, and a DWR is that a satellite gives a vertical view while a radar gives a horizontal diametric view, which yields more precise predictions,” said Sharma, adding that this attribute could have given us a better understanding of the intensity of Phyan.
The nine-page report, by the Regional Specialised Meteorological Centre- Tropical Cyclone (RSMC-TC) charts a brief history of the cyclone, satellite observations, damages and weather prediction models.
“The availability of DWR at Mumbai could have helped better monitor and predict Phyan and the associated adverse weather,” the report says in concluding remarks.
Kapil Gupta, IIT professor and member of the National Disaster Management Authority, explained that post-Phyan, we need not just a Doppler radar confined to Mumbai, but a network of radars along the coast.
“We could have known the intensity of rainfall 200 km
and three hours in advance,” Gupta said.