Uttarakhand rain data to be used for improved cloudburst forecast

Model developed by scientists at ISRO's Space Applications Centre got some predictions about cloudbursts on June 16 right

By Jyotsna Singh
Published: Wednesday 17 July 2013

The rains that caused widespread devastation in Uttarakhand may help avert heavy loss of human lives in future. Data generated during the spell of heavy rains can be used by scientists to predict events of cloudburst. Scientists at the Space Applications Centre (SAC) in Ahmedabad that functions under Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), will use the data to improve their experimental model for cloudburst forecast. The model is likely to be in use by next year's monsoon.

SAC has been running experiments to develop a reliable model for weather forecast, especially rainfall and cloudburst. In an experimental exercise, the centre made predictions about Uttarakhand for June 16. Some of them proved right. But the scientists got their prediction about the time of occurrence of cloudbursts all wrong. SAC uploaded the experimental data on their data portal (website)—Meteorological and Oceanographic Satellite Data Archival Centre (MOSDAC)—on June 23.

Where the predictions went wrong

"Predictions of cloudburst regarding north-eastern parts of Uttarakhand were correct, while those for south-west failed. The time of event was wrongly predicted in both cases. The centre predicted heavy rains and cloudburst for early morning, but the events happened in late afternoon on June 16. The model still has to be developed further to give correct forecasts," said Manab Chakraborty, group director of SAC. He said SAC decided to put up the experimental data regarding Uttarakhand in public domain due to the curiosity and widespread concern it created. He, however, cautioned against mistaking the experimental data for actual prediction about the heavy rainfalls in Uttarkhand.

"We have put up our analysis post-facto. It was for experimental purpose, not operational," said Chakraborty. He said that the data collected during the heavy rains will be useful for correct predictions.

"We do not always get this kind of data to make our model better. This event has given us a lot that will go into improving the model to predict cloudbursts," said Chakraborty.

Once the model is operational, it will give forecast 12 to 24 hours prior to the event.

"Cloudburst is a very localised event. In 2010, there was a cloudburst two km from the Leh airport. But the weather station at the airport recorded only 12-14 mm of rain for a day, which was far off the mark. We will be able to predict cloudburst 12 hours or so in advance. The data will be uploaded every three hours," explained Chakraborty.

There is still no name for the model.

New model to be operational by next monsoon
"We'll have a name when the model becomes operational, which we expect by monsoon next year," said Chakraborty. 

"Our model is a part of the global circulation model (GCM). It is fine resolution modified model, which means data collection and thus, prediction will be highly localised," added Chakraborty. He explained that weather does not follow boundaries and all phenomenon world-over are interconnected.

" But at the same time, in our model we are trying to form boundaries to understand local weather conditions and predict accordingly," said Chakraborty.


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