India set for better weather forecast with Chinese radars

India is all set to get more accurate forecasts on fast-changing weather systems with the help of 55 China-made Doppler radars that will cover 126 meteorological zones across the country by 2015.

The installation of Chinese made Doppler Weather Radar (DWR) is part of the Rs.10-billion (US$220 million) modernisation plan of the 135-year-old India Meteorological Department (IMD).

“In all, 55 Chinese DWRs would be installed across the country by 2015. By next year, 20 such radars would be set up in different parts of India,” Ajit Tyagi, director general of IMD, told IANS.

The DWR, put up on specially-constructed four- or five-storey buildings, would be able to scan the atmosphere round-the-clock and provide information about the presence of clouds, their location and intensity within a 500-km radius.

A senior IMD official told IANS on condition of anonymity: “ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) had developed a weather radar that has been working successfully at the Sriharikota satellite launch centre for nearly four years. The Indian government, however, preferred the Chinese made DWR, claiming they would be more purposeful.”

According to Tyagi, existing conventional radars ensure 75-80 percent data and predictions are accurate. But DWRs are technologically superior to conventional radars, he said.

“Present conventional radars provide information on reflectivity only, whereas a DWR provides data on velocity and spectral width in addition to reflectivity,” Tyagi said.

“Meteorological, hydrological and aviation-related data and predictions using DWRs would be very useful for forecasters, weathermen, planners, safe navigation of aircraft and ships,” Tyagi said.

The IMD chief said DWR has the unique capability to continuously track and predict fast-evolving weather systems and provide effective monitoring and warning of thunderstorms, hailstorms, cyclones, cloudbursts, monsoon depressions and localised heavy rainfall.

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The cost of the each DWR equipment is approximately Rs.110 million ($2.4 mn) with an additional expenditure of Rs.60 million ($1.3 mn) towards development of infrastructure for setting it up.

“Named after Austrian physicist Christian Doppler, the DWRs are expected to make a great change in the weather and hydrological predictions in all of India’s 126 Met zones,” he said.

Seven DWRs have already been installed in some important locations, including New Delhi, Nagpur, Patna and Lucknow.

Tyagi, accompanied by top IMD officials and scientists, came here Tuesday to install the northeast’s first DWR in Agartala. The next DWR in this region is being set up at Dibrugarh in Assam.

He said by the Twelfth Five Year Plan (April 2012 to March 2017), all blocks in the 640 districts across India would be covered by the weather and hydrological data recording mechanism and agricultural-meteorological (agro-met) advisory services.

“With the transformation of weather, hydrological and aviation- related forecasting and information gathering technology, India would also be able to share more perfect data on these matters with any other country,” he said.

According to him, for the past few years India has been sharing climatic information with member countries of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)-supported SASCOF (South Asian Climate Outlook Forum).

Tyagi said IMD had developed the mechanism to monitor seismic activities and oceanic activity regularly.

“Natural disaster and climatic hitches are a cause of worry. But if we predict them accurately, with proper planning we could be able to save lives and property to a great extent,” he said.

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