No stranger to criticism over so-called “poor” weather updates, rainfall data and delayed alerts during Mumbai’s monsoon, K S Hosalikar, Deputy Director General, Western Region, IMD, talks about forecasting facilities, localised weather updates and thunderstorm in the state in an interview with The Indian Express. Excerpts:
What does the IMD’s first long-range forecast this season mean for Maharashtra?
The long-range forecast, which was issued on April 15, was for the entire country and it cannot be brought down to a particular region. This year will have a near-normal southwest monsoon rainfall between June and September of 96 per cent. This is for the whole country. The IMD will predict region-wise or month-wise distribution of rainfall by last week of May or June first week. The country is divided into four regions – southern peninsula, central India, northeast and west. The long-range forecast for central India will include Maharashtra and Gujarat along with other states.
What was the reason behind thunderstorms/hail in interiors of Maharashtra?
The thunderstorms/hail was a severe weather system covering a large spatial extent and it was felt all the way in Maharashtra. Following it, the maximum temperatures also slightly dropped last week, for example Vidarbha’s temperature was below 44 degrees Celsius last Wednesday. This weather system is over now and the temperatures will be on the rise. This was a temporary relief from the heat.
What is the broadcast system for alerts, weather forecast in the region?
Other than the alerts on the IMD website, we have SMS broadcast system. Since last two years, we have also started using social media networks like Twitter and Facebook. We have also created various WhatsApp groups with various stakeholders. For example, with city and state disaster management units, agriculture-related groups and others for fishermen. Because of these groups, we have flexibility; members can ask questions, get queries solved, which is not possible with SMS broadcast.
There were demands by farmers and fish workers’ forums to get alerts in local languages.
We have tied up with agencies for different groups viz urban, agriculture, fishermen groups, which then convert the alerts, forecast issued by the IMD in English into local languages. The IMD also receives reports from these agencies about local problems or issues raised by different groups. In case of fishermen, the IMD has a list of fishermen societies to whom alerts are sent and they, in turn, disseminate information to fishermen in their database. For Mumbai, we have the BMC as the agency which disseminates alerts to the 1.3 crore population of Mumbai.
What are the upgrades in forecast facilities ahead of this year’s monsoon?
We have set up a video wall in the forecasting room, where the duty officer will be able to access live satellite and radar images, among others, without switching on their computers in all the three offices – Goa, Gujarat and Mumbai. The state-of-the-art video wall will be connected to high-end computers and have high-end display.
Will the IMD be able to provide hyper-local weather forecast and rainfall data this monsoon?
The IMD has around 28 automatic weather stations along with over 50 rain gauges provided by the civic body. In total, there are over 100 functional rain gauges that record rainfall across the city. The AWS provides information related to rainfall, wind speed, temperature, humidity and wind direction. We are planning to add another 30-40 rain gauges and are in discussion with the BMC as well as approaching colleges and other academic institutions, where we can install them.