North Coastal Andhra Pradesh has been witnessing unpredictable weather changes for about a decade since the very severe cyclonic storm Hudhud in 2014. Scientists and environmentalists feel these extreme climatic events are only symptoms of climate change.
The shifts in weather patterns due to climate change have made the weather unpredictable, and the untimely rains that hit the State due to early pre-monsoon activity in peak summer this year are one such event.
Though dedicated organisations at the Central and State levels keep apprising the public about the weather activity well in advance, more frequent and region-specific forecasts have been out of reach for many, especially farmers.
However, in the past few years, the gap between the official meteorological agencies and the common people has been bridged by several self-made weathermen who disseminate weather forecasts and updates specific to time and place through various social media platforms.
The emergence of private weather bloggers started in a big way about five to six years ago when some enthusiastic weathermen from Telangana and Maharashtra started posting rainfall predictions on social media. Accurate forecasts from 24 hours to about five to six days in advance, they would raise the alarm through their Twitter accounts.
Since their predictions were mainly accurate, the positive response to the weathermen’s tweets and the number of their followers gradually increased. As the days passed, the weathermen tribe gradually increased, with youth from various regions showing interest in cloud reading and weather forecasting.
Andhra Pradesh has two youths - Vizag Weatherman, aka Sai Kiran from Gajuwaka in Visakhapatnam, and AP Weatherman, aka B. Sai Praneeth from Tirupathi, who have been actively providing weather alerts to lakhs of followers for the past few years. The updates were not just limited to rain alerts and included forecasts about extreme weather conditions, hailstorms and floods.
Upon receiving good responses from their ever-increasing number of followers, these weathermen began looking for innovative ways to engage them. They have evolved from mere textual tweets to now presenting the weather forecast through non-conventional methods like memes, reels, video messages, audio messages, graphical posts and sometimes even conducting ‘Live’ sessions to explain the weather updates.
Sai Kiran from Visakhapatnam rose to the occasion when it was much needed. His posts to alert farmers and common citizens during the Titli cyclone (2018) and cyclone Gulaab (2021) during its landfall have earned him good recognition. The 25-year-old IT employee has been into weather forecasting for the last four years out of passion.
“Earlier, maybe because of the lack of Internet services, higher cost and lower accessibility, weather forecasting was a tough task. Now with the availability of various weather models, weather forecasting is accessible and almost free. However, one needs good analytical skills to understand cloud patterns and weather conditions”Sai Kiran aka Vizag WeathermanWeather forecaster
“Earlier, maybe because of the lack of Internet services, higher cost and lower accessibility, weather forecasting was a tough task. Now with the availability of various weather models, weather forecasting is accessible and almost free. However, one needs good analytical skills to understand the cloud patterns and weather conditions,” he says.
Some models include the Global Forecast System (GFS) of the US, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), and the IMD Global Forecast System of India. We also have models from Australia, Japan and a few other countries. I prefer US, UK and Indian models for prediction, Sai Kiran adds.
Forecast customised for followers
“Basically, there are no off-days when it comes to being in this weatherman duties. Every day we receive a number of messages and tags with people asking their doubts,” says Sai Kiran. According to him, some enquire about weather conditions before embarking on their travel plans. During winter, people ask about the minimum temperatures to plan their trips to hill stations like Araku and Lambasingi. People especially need weather updates on tourist spots and the best time to visit those places. As a result, hundreds of posts are uploaded during the winter season.
The situation is again different in summer, as people seek updates about the rains to heave a sigh of relief, he adds. “We constantly give updates about the heatwave and caution to carry water and umbrellas while going out since it is important to ensure no one is hit by a heatwave,” he adds.
Mr. Sai says that it gives them the utmost satisfaction and, at the same time, puts a huge responsibility on them when farmers contact them to enquire about the day/week forecast and ask them about the steps that should be taken. I double-check when I give any update to ensure their hard work does not go in vain. He said that last month, there was a severe heatwave across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
“There were many calls from the farmers in Telangana compared to those in Andhra requesting updates on rain and hailstorm to safeguard their crops. I try my best to give them the updates,” he said.
Another youth doing his bit to bridge the gap between the government agencies with his weather predictions is B. Sai Praneeth, better known as ‘Andhra Pradesh Weatherman’.
Mr. Praneeth is the first weather blogger from the State. He started weather blogging a few years ago and became a trusted source of accurate weather updates in Andhra Pradesh. Mr. Praneeth of Visakhapatnam also earned the praises of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who appreciated him in the Man Ki Baat programme.
“I started studying weather systems out of my personal interest in 2011. Later, I felt the need for more timely and accurate weather updates to benefit the rural population of Andhra Pradesh, who witness a number of cyclones every year. I started providing the forecast information on Twitter and Facebook to the public in 2020,” says Mr. Praneeth.
“Andhra Pradesh has irregular weather patterns and the weather is not easily predictable. It is a major concern for farmers and the availability of proper forecast will help them plan accordingly,” he says.
The 26-year-old weatherman, a mechanical engineer by profession, says that upon finding out that a good number of rural people use YouTube, he started a channel on that platform which now reaches about one million users every month.
“Agencies like the IMD have a different approach while disseminating weather updates. They focus on an entire State while bloggers like me issue city and area-specific updates with an accurate prediction of the time of rainfall”B. Sai Praneeth aka Andhra Pradesh WeathermanWeather forecaster
He says that agencies like the IMD have a different approach while disseminating weather updates. They focus on an entire State while bloggers like me issue city and area-specific updates with an accurate prediction of the time of rainfall, he says.
He adds that people need such area-specific forecasts, and weather bloggers have filled the gap.
“I get in touch with experts at the IMD and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology to learn new things. I am a member of the Chennai-based community of weather enthusiasts among who knowledge is shared,” Mr. Praneeth says
Mr. Praneeth works for Robert Bosch as a mechanical engineer while pursuing his passion for weather blogging.
Unlike daily forecasts by IMD, these weathermen even issue hourly forecasts when a cyclone threat looms.