By Nivedita Khandekar
New Delhi, Aug 15 (IANS) A little over six months since the India Meteorological Department (IMD) started crowd-sourcing information regarding observed weather phenomena such as rains, thundershowers or squalls etc, more than 8,700 people have sent in their observations.
These observations – about rain, thundershower, fog and gusty winds – have come from across India and the IMD has claimed that it is helping improve their forecast.
It started with the IMD posting on its different regional websites and the main one a message requesting people to send in their observations regarding the observed weather phenomenon. Along with the information and a URL given on the respective websites, was a message requesting people “to spare some time to fill up the proforma and submit photos and information”, which the IMD said, “will be of great help to IMD for verification of weather forecast and further improvement in forecasting”.
The link (https://city.imd.gov.in/citywx/crowd/enter_th_data.php ) is available on the IMD’s main website (https://mausam.imd.gov.in) under the heading ‘Public Observation’.
No sooner did the word go out, weather enthusiasts started reporting local weather events, such as rain, hailstorm or fog, from their areas. Some uploaded photos, some just information. This link also accepted photos of the damage caused due to particular weather phenomena in the area.
As on August 13, the IMD has received 4,017 alerts for rain, 2,802 for thunderstorm, 1,070 for fog, and 870 for gusty wind, as per data.
These 8,759 points of information were received from all 35 states and UTs.
Senior scientist at IMD’s National Weather Forecasting Centre (NWFC) Soma Sen Roy told IANS: “More than the rains, one of the most discontinuous and mesoscale phenomena are the thunderstorms. So, whenever we get reports of thunderstorms from people, it comes as supporting evidence.”
For example, if a thunderstorm has not occurred over an IMD observatory, it reports it as zero, no occurrence; whereas from crowd-sourcing report, the IMD gets the entire picture for the country for various occurrences and this helps it gradually build up a pattern.
“This (the place where a commoner has sent his or her input) is the actual region where hail storm or thunderstorms have happened. So, that is a very good thing when we are trying to gauge the intensity of a weather system on the subsequent day. The forecast is made with a few limited observations from where we build up our story. The same weather system will either re-intensify, intensify and it will move. Occurrence of weather is often the main signal about the strength and actual location of the weather system,” Roy said.
So, when IMD gets actual information that a weather system has moved, it has been intense, etc then for the subsequent day, the forecast becomes more accurate, the senior scientist said.
The public participation is helping improve the forecast and weather services such as NowCast warnings would improve.
However, the public information received about a particular weather event has got no relation with the prevalence of a particular weather phenomenon in that state or UT. It is just the awareness and availability of the internet facility that determines the information input. But for a vast country such as India with varied internet penetration levels, these numbers are small, and IMD needs to reach out to more people with wider publicity.
As at now, the facility is available in English and Hindi languages only and that too to be operated from the website.
IMD’s Director General (Meteorology) Dr Mrutyunjay Mohapatra agreed that the facility needs to be in various languages and also said it will be soon available as an App for the smart phones so that people can easily upload the photos directly.