IMD rolls out national monsoon mission

Will collaborate with weather research organisations across the world to improve monsoon forecast all over the country

By Dinsa Sachan
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015


When the Union Cabinet gave the nod to the National Monsoon Mission in the last week of April, it was a moment of triumph for the earth sciences ministry which had proposed the project in 2010.

The project was first given shape under the leadership of Ajit Tyagi, the then director general of India Meteorological Department (IMD), in the same year. “After the 2009 drought, we felt a grave need for an improvement in monsoon forecast,” says Tyagi. While IMD had predicted deficient rainfall in the country in 2009, it was drastically below their estimations. IMD had also failed to predict the droughts of 2002 and 2004. After several brainstorming meetings over a year, the ministry prepared the proposal in 2010.

As part of the mission, IMD will collaborate with weather research organisations nationally as well as internationally to improve monsoon forecast for the country. The mission’s focus is on developing a dynamic model for monsoon prediction and Rs 400 crore has been earmarked for it for the next five years.

IMD will test out variations of the dynamic models proposed by various institutes and the best ones would be implemented in operational forecast of rainfall, Tyagi says. A dynamic weather prediction model involves 3D mathematical simulation of the atmosphere on computer. Dynamic models are especially useful for predicting rainfall over smaller spatial and temporal scale, which is not possible in the statistical forecasting system which IMD uses.

Statistical models require lengthy calculations to track the southwest monsoon, which provides rainfall to most of the country except Tamil Nadu.

Under the project, Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology will work on improving long-range and seasonal scale forecasts while the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting in Noida, will spearhead efforts to improve medium-range scale (upto 15 days) forecast of rainfall.

M Rajeevan, India’s foremost monsoon expert and head of the mission, says the project has already kickstarted and proposals have been invited from all over the country. “We’re concentrating on two global dynamic models–the climate Forecast System model developed in the US and the Unified model developed by the UK meteorological office. These models have seen a lot of improvement over the past five to six years, but we need to finetune them further.”

He adds that at the end of the five-year term of the mission, it will be possible to predict droughts. “Fallout of droughts like those of 2004 and 2009 could be prevented if we’re able to warn farmers in advance,” Rajeevan adds.

Tyagi says it’s known to everyone that statistical models are limited in their function. “But it is very important for us to get our monsoon forecast right. Hence a need for a nationwide project in mission mode,” he says. Sixty per cent of agriculture in the country is rain-fed and long-range forecast provided by statistical model is not sufficient to meet farmers’ needs. “With dynamic models, we will be able to provide monthly forecasts for every state,” Tyagi adds.

Dynamic models have several advantages. They can be used along with agriculture and hydrological models. “They can be used for many more purposes than rainfall prediction. You can get real-time information on wind, temperature and humidity in digitised format,” Tyagi informs.


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  • Namaskar, Most unfortunately,


    Most unfortunately, IMD is neglecting building up of traditional principles of forecasting at local, regional and national level; but putting more emphasis on time pass research under you scratch my back and I scratch your back. This is started with the entering of sophisticated computers and later satellite data in around 1970s & 80s within the groups from IITM, IMD and USA (ex-IITM group member). They were given all out support by government as some have got clout in the ministries and planning commission. Even in USA traditional methodology superseded the computer based dynamic forecasting technologies in the correct prediction of hurricanes ÔÇô movement, intensity, expected destruction. Dynamic methods of forecasting is mainly obey [however, the physics behind is not known] what you feed while traditional mode look at what is happening around by taking in to account thumb rules developed by predecessors and thus make it a better forecasting tool. Statistical models were started using in long range weather forecasts of all-India Southwest Monsoon rainfall. The all-India Southwest Monsoon rainfall presents a coefficient of variation of less than 10% and thus in majority of the years the forecast is coming to close to the actual. However, when move to regional level, the failure increases as the coefficient of variation increases beyond 20% and also regional rainfall patterns are quite different and after the Dynamic model culture, the emphasis on regional seasonal forecasts have taken back bench. This must be given top priority as these help local farming activities.
    Government must stop feeding funds to simple time pass computer based ÔÇ£so-called Dynamic ModelingÔÇØ activities ÔÇô some to visit USA and some from USA to India -- in weather forecasting and IPCC mode climate change studies and try to encourage traditional way of looking at weather forecasting and climate change that really help India.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    Formerly Chief Technical Advisor ÔÇô WMO/UN & Expert ÔÇô FAO/UN
    Convenor, Forum For A Sustainable Environment

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • More high-resolution reliable

    More high-resolution reliable ground-truthed data is needed. The rest should follow. If it is in the public domain, all the better.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • We should not be backward in

    We should not be backward in the adoption of new technology of more efficient weather forecasting, the Traditional "Indigenous Technical Knowledge"(ITK) is not to be neglected, as our fore fathers had decided on the basis of pattern of some climatic factors to what to sow in the soil and which crop would give more production. they transformed these ITK into proverbs and poems in their dialects which are duly verified by their long inter-generational experience. this traditional knowledge may be explored aside using the modern technology for a valid and authentic weather forecasting. Our farmers always suffer due monsoon related problems, if they can be informed well in advance about the features of rainfall, temperature and wind patterns, they can decide about what to sow and when to harvest.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply