The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) will launch mobile applications to allow public access to weather-related information. The application, available on android mobile phones, will help disseminate locale-specific observation and weather forecast to people.

At a user meet on ‘Weather Services: Bridging the gap with user communities/stakeholders’ organised by the Regional Meteorological Centre (RMC) in Chennai on Wednesday, L.S. Rathore, director general of meteorology, IMD, said the department was also working out the modalities to introduce text message service to disseminate weather information to stakeholders. At present, farmers benefit from such a service.

He also said there was potential for private players to provide such services. Plans were afoot to introduce block-level forecasting under the 12th Five-Year Plan to provide location-specific data.

In a bid to reach a wider audience, the IMD also planned to tie up with community radio stations and increase the duration of weather bulletins to half an hour on Doordarshan.

“In Europe, it is easy to predict weather in a long range. However, in tropical regions, at times, forecasting the changing pattern is difficult,” he said.

He also said, nowcasting, a system through which weather over the next few hours could be predicted, would soon be available at RMC, Chennai.

Steps must be taken to strengthen the network of automatic weather stations across the country, he said, adding that about 20-30 per cent of them were not in working condition at present.

There were also plans to assimilate weather data from other government agencies such as district collectorates and the Public Works Department, Mr. Rathore said.

At the meeting, Jatindra Nath Swain, principal secretary/commissioner of revenue administration, disaster management and mitigation department, said the unpredictable nature of weather was leading to agriculture insurance chaging to weather-based crop insurance in the State.

However, farmers were not too pleased with this. Provision of weather data at village level would help change their minds, he said.