Monsoons in India remain one of the prime source of water for irrigation. In a country that has been dependent on a statistical method of rainfall prediction introduced under the British colonial rule in the 1920s, the winds of change are finally blowing in our direction.
For nearly a century, India has turned to an old statistical method to forecast and prepare for these seasonal downpours. This method is better than nothing but hardly perfect – offering only an overall, country-wide forecast and forecasts for five regions. For a country as large as India, these scattered predictions aren’t exactly descriptive.
But things are changing rapidly, India’s meteorology office is spending $60 million on a new supercomputer to improve the accuracy of one of the world’s most vital weather forecasts in time for next year’s rains.
“If everything goes well, by 2017 we’ll make this dynamical model operational by replacing the statistical model,” said M. Rajeevan, secretary at the ministry of earth science. The technocrat explained that the new system is primarily a model adopted in the U.S and now tweaked for usage in India.
Rajeevan noted that the earlier adoption of the dynamic model was not possible as the system could not predict monsoon. “Now it can with better results than the statistical model,” he said.
At present, the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the only government-run wing for weather monitoring, has 5,000 employees collating data from radars, observatories, ships, sensors, etc. It issues weather forecast for country as a whole and five geographical regions based on historical relationship between rainfall and eight other parameters like surface temperature, monsoon wind pattern on the Indian Ocean.