IMD may deploy cutting-edge technology to forecast weather events more accurately

Source: Business Standard

Relevance – Weather forecasting is important for disaster management and reducing farmer’s crop loss.


The ability of India Meteorological Department (IMD) is looking for the adoption of cutting-edge technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) for improving weather forecasting.

  • The standing crop of Ujjain farmers got destroyed recently due to poor weather forecast by the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
  • However, now IMD has decided to increasingly use cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in forecasting.
  • This would help avoid such glitches and help counter the disruption of normal seasonal patterns as a result of climate change.
Enhancement in IMD’s Data collection and processing:
  • There are nearly 20 weather buoys and advanced weather station-equipped ships that collect data from the depths of the ocean. While over 25 Doppler radars monitor climatic conditions on land.
    • All this gives the Met department accurate data on sea surface temperatures, wind speed, and high- and low-pressure systems. 
  • The launch of two high-powered weather satellites, INSAT-3D and INSAT 3D-R in 2013 and 2016, respectively, has also given a fillip to the IMD’s observation and data collection capabilities.
  • The ability to process observational data has also undergone a vast improvement due to a manifold increase in its computing power from 1 teraflop to 8.6 teraflops
    • Now it can come out with a forecast within three hours of the data being fed in, whereas earlier, this would take anywhere from 12 to 14 hours.
Impact of enhanced data collection and processing capabilities:
  • The accuracy for predicting heavy rainfall has gone up from 60% to 80% in the last 10 years. Similarly, cyclone trajectory can now be accurately predicted in the range of 30 km, earlier it was 200 km.
  • Until 2012, the department did not have much success in forecasting thunderstorms accurately. But now it has achieved 80-85% accuracy in forecasting them three hours before the event.
  • One area where the IMD has so far not had much success is, in predicting the occurrence of lightning. Predicting lightning accurately is very difficult, because it happens over a small area in a short span of time.
Path towards adoption of AI and ML by IMD:
  • It has formed various internal sub-groups of senior officials and meteorologists to decide on optimum use of AI and ML. 
    • It would analyse the usage in predicting cyclone intensity, and in making short-range weather forecasts (those valid for up to three hours) as well as long-range forecasts.
  • The IMD, along with the ministry of earth sciences, has also tied up with the Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) at Allahabad and Vadodara, and with IIT-Kharagpur. The collaboration is aimed to hone its strategy of using AI and ML in weather forecasting.
  • Moreover, it is working closely with global tech giants such as Google and others to fine-tune its use of AI and ML.
    • Google has been using IMD’s automated alerts to immediately disseminate information on weather events such as heat waves, thunderstorms, rainfall and cyclones. These alerts show up on Google Maps and Search.

Once AI and ML have been adopted into the IMD’s systems, deaths due to lightning (which number around 2,000 annually in India) are also likely to come down.

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