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‘Telling people the impact of weather is more important’

Speakers at the inaugural session of a three-day international workshop on climate change at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) in Pune on Monday.

Speakers at the inaugural session of a three-day international workshop on climate change at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) in Pune on Monday.  

We need to improve forecasting models, data assimilation and observations, says Dr. Rajeevan

With large swathes of India reeling under the onslaught of excess rainfall this year, Dr. M. Rajeevan, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) on Monday stressed upon the need for enhancing impact-based forecasting in the near future, and said the MoES was closely working with the United Kingdom’s Meteorological Office to frame a policy in this regard.

Stating that predictions of weather and climate had improved over the last few years due to improved data assimilation and better computer models, Dr. Rajeevan said that improved forecasting led to an increase in the expectations of the public and policy-makers alike.

“The challenge is whether we can give a probability forecast to the government beyond one week for them to take necessary action on it and take care of the people. That is one target we have. Also, whether we can improve the general forecasting by reliable predicting a week ahead instead of five days,” he said, underscoring the need to improve forecasting models, the physics, data assimilation and observations.

Speaking during the inaugural session of a three-day international workshop on ‘Prediction skill of extreme precipitation events and tropical cyclones’ at the Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Dr. Rajeevan said that the urgent demand of the public was for forecasters to spell clearly the impact of the weather conditions predicted.

“While we tell what the weather will be for the next few days, we don’t normally tell what the weather will do. Telling the people the impact of the weather is more important and we have faced a lot of criticism on this count. So, we are focusing on impact-based forecasting,” he said.

While impact-based forecasting was regularly done in the case of tropical cyclones, Dr. Rajeevan stressed on a similar approach while forecasting heavy rainfall.

“For instance, if you forecast 20cm rainfall in Pune over the next 24 hours, then we must say what exactly this 20cm rain will do in Pune city [in terms of impact or damage]. The general public and policy-makers alike will ask this question,” he said, adding that such impact-based forecast was required and the MoES would come up with it.

Pune had witnessed a ‘black night’ on September 25-26 this year when short spells of intense downpour resulted in the deaths of more than 25 people and causing massive damage to property. Overall, the district witnessed more than 50 deaths due to excess rain in the monsoon this year.

“We now have ensemble simulations at par with any other country. In fact, this season’s unusual monsoon had five cyclones and we were able to predict them all in advance and with high accuracy,” said Dr. Rajeevan.

Likewise, he said while 15 cm rainfall in Mumbai may not result in any serious damage, it would cause massive flooding in a city like Thiruvananthapuram.

“So, the impact-based forecasting should be done in the context of where it rains and taking into consideration the time of the year of the rains,” said Dr. Rajeevan, adding that in the last 10 years, the number of cyclones forming in Arabian Sea had increased.

He also underscored the importance of working with Artifical Intelligence in modelling and better forecasting.

Highlighting the importance of prediction of extreme events, Prof. Kerry Emanuel, co-director, Lorenz Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, said: “Three times as many people live along the coasts as compared to the number in 1971. This is much higher than the rate of population growth and highlights the need for better cyclone predictions.”

Prof. Graeme Stephens, Director, Centre for Climate sciences at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California, said: “Precipitation all over the world will increase as a global means with further warning, but regional changes will not be the same. Precipitation changes will be non-linear.”

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 3:32:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/telling-people-the-impact-of-weather-is-more-important/article30081004.ece

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