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31st January '2019
The Weather Forecasts
 
Sonam Lotus
 
These days’ people have become very conscious of the weather forecasts thanks to Mr. Sonam Lotus, the present Director of the Srinagar Met Office. In earlier times people were not very much interested in weather forecasts. We had almost fixed seasons and one would know and expect the particular type of weather for different seasons. We used to have spring and autumn rains, very hot and dry summer and then the cold, chilling and snowy winter. March and April used to be rainy with almost continuous rains. June was nice and warm; July and August hot and dry with occasional evening thunder showers when day temperature got somewhat high resulting in local cloud formation. The monsoons hardly reached the valley! October and November would again bring some rains. December to February end was the cold months. These months witnessed lot of chill and heavy snows. The traditional Chillai Kalan, Chillai Khurd and Chillai Bacha occurred during this period.
Weather Satellite
Ground Station

However, the global warming caused by emissions slowly resulted in global climate change. The Earth became hotter disrupting all the seasons. Now the winters are cold but with lesser snowfall. Summers are very hot without the evening thunder showers! Spring and autumn rains too have been disrupted. In Kashmir the adverse effects of global warming have been further compounded by us by our own environment destroying actions such as indiscriminate felling of forests and the virtual eating up of our traditional water bodies. The most punitive backlash given by the nature for our greedy actions was the destructive flood of 2014. It was during this flood that the name of Sonam Lotus came up. He had predicted five days of continuous and heavy rain and had warned of severe floods but the administration at that time was caught with its pants down!

After that disaster Mr. Sonam Lotus has been giving continuous forecasts which have more or less proved accurate. Weather forecasting these days is an advanced science dependent upon weather satellites, super computers and various interpretations. Predicting weather for a longer period say more than a week is not practically possible. It is because of continuous changes in wind speed, wind direction, amount of precipitation and so on. However, with experience one can forecast weather for few days which may prove quite accurate. Again the occurrence of rains, snow or even sunshine for a particular period can change many times due to various factors mentioned earlier. In developed countries people mostly rely on their geostationary weather satellites and super-computers which can continuously predict weather even on hourly basis.

 
Satellite Image
 

There are many satellite based weather forecasting systems. In USA they have been following the “Direct Read Out Satellite Imaging” for weather forecasting. GOES GRB Satellite Receiving System was upgraded with GOES-R in 2016. It was considered to be the most powerful meteorological spacecraft ever built. Images in visual system are up to 0.5 km and infrared up to 1 km. The other systems include JPSS Satellite Receiving System, Geonetcast Satellite Receiving System and so on.

In 2017, Denmarklaunched a world-first weather forecast system that can provide more accurate forecasts by the hour, using just a fraction of the computing power of conventional models. The scientist Xiao Hua Yang of the Danish Meteorological Institute designed the new system which is called the Continuous Mesoscale Ensemble Prediction System—or COMEPS.According to Yang, the new setup offers several advantages over traditional forecasting systems. One is that more frequent updates should make their short-term forecasts more accurate.“The weather forecast used to be refreshed every six hours, and then with the previous upgrade [in June 2016] it was every three hours. With the new COMEP system we’ll be able to do it every hour,” he says.

Another improvement is that the new system can forecast conditions for every 2.5 square kilometres, which should help them to capture localised events. The previous system produced meteorological data for every 5.5 square kilometres. Yang and his colleagues at DMI are now experimenting with even smaller scales, down to as little as 300 metres.

One wonders what kind of a system we are using. Normally our forecasts are based on Insat-3D satellite imagery which comes on every hour. It is not known whether the local Met Station gets continuous satellite feed and also whether they have a meteorological super computer. Probably, their forecasts are based on Insat Satellite imagery which keeps on changing. In the absence of continuous satellite feed and a supercomputer to process it, the forecasts can go wrong and the blame goes to the Met Officer. Only they can throw some light on their working systems. Nevertheless, their forecasts have been more or less accurate most of the time.

In fact, because of these forecasts Mr. Sonam Lotus has become a household name. He deserves not only encouragement for his hard work but full support to get the latest systems for installation in Srinagar. Keeping in view the last disastrous flood and the frequent snow avalanches, the upgradation of our Metrological Set Up is the need of the hour. Mr. N N Vohra, the former Governor had been very keen about it. Let us hope the task is expedited and Mr. Sonam Lotus is given the latest tools to give us more accurate forecasts! In the meantime he deserves three cheers for making us weather conscious!

 
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