<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In August last year, KJ Ramesh took charge as the Director-General of India Meteorological Department (IMD), the country’s nati-onal meteorological service. Ramesh is heading IMD at a time when it is in the middle of expanding their observatory network and has plans to improve its technological prowess for more accurate forecasts. Ramesh spoke to DNA on issues ranging from IMD’s expansion plans, forecasting systems and coping with private forecasters. Excerpts: IMD is in the middle of operational and infrastructure expansion. Can you dwell on the targets for adding physical infrastructure?It is happening in two directions. Consolidating the existing observatory systems and augmenting them as per emerging needs and expanding them to go to the next level. The Indian Air Force will be adding 12 radars while IMD will be adding 11 radars to augment the radar network. We are commissioning it in such a way that each district has one automatic weather station (AWS) and two automatic rain gauges. That is the sort of network we have established. After that, for the next three years, we will have two to five AWS’ and then about 15 rain gauges. In cities, we will densify the network for capturing heavy rainfall (data). These systems will help us cover the plains and later we will add more infrastructure in the hills.This year, IMD gave primacy to dynamical forecast model over statistical model for this year’s monsoon. How has this helped improving the forecast?We have used both the models, statistical and dynamical models. Incidentally, both models gave the 96% (+/- 5% error margin) figure as far as the all-India rainfall is concerned, based on conditions up to March. Based on early April conditions, we showed the prospect of El Niño developing in August and September, as projected by every model. That prospect and associated probability is coming below 50%. It was more than 50% till March. The reduced probability and a moderate El Niño has been confirmed by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology too. This was impossible to envisage using a statistical model.How is IMD coping with competition from private forecasters? As far as the services are concerned, there is no competition from anybody. Because nobody can have that knowledge base or system support base to render services of this magnitude. I don’t think anybody has and will have it ahead. Private sector will never invest in this kind of thing, which is only for public good. At the moment, private forecasters are only limiting their services to give modules to TV Channels and newspapers.
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