Sunday, April 05, 2020

Grounding of planes partially hits IMD’s weather data supply

New Delhi: The grounding of the country’s civilian aircraft has strangled a key source of weather data that the India Meteorological Department (IMD) uses for its forecasts. Officials, however, clarified that India’s annual monsoon forecast system was on track, with the first forecast scheduled to be issued in mid-April.
Aircraft relay data about temperature and wind speed in the upper atmosphere to meteorological agencies the world over and this is used in the dynamical models, the ones which are run on super computers and relied on to give weather forecasts three days, or even two weeks ahead. “Inputs from aircraft are important for the dynamical models as it determines the initial conditions for these models,” D.S. Pai, chief forecaster, IMD Pune, told The Hindu. “However for the monsoon forecast, which is a long-term forecast, this isn’t significantly affected.”
Beginning mid-March, India began restricting incoming international flights into the country and by March 24 had imposed a total shutdown on domestic air travel as well.
This year, the IMD will likely rely on its traditional statistical forecast system — the workhorse, developed on the basis of historical data. India had begun to move away from this system and started to rely on its dynamical models as it better captures developing changes in the atmosphere. However, India’s dynamical models are still not as adept as meteorologists want them to be, for warning of a drought or extreme changes in monsoon rainfall. That, and limited data from aircraft as well as a general decline in land-based observations because of a shortage of manpower to send observations are forcing the agency’s hand.
04/04/20 Jacob Koshy/The Hindu
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