IMDs Doppler weather radars under security cloud

Written by Sandip Das | New Delhi | Updated: May 22 2012, 08:16am hrs
The plan to install Doppler meteorological radars at four key locations in the country has been stymied by the fear of the dragon. The home ministry has raised security concerns regarding the radars two years after the purchase of the equipment, which was to help modernise the countrys weather forecasting system.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) had purchased 12 Doppler radars from the US-based Weather Detection Systems, which has manufacturing units in China. Since then, they have been installed at eights locations including Lucknow, Patna, Visakhapatnam and Kolkata.

However, the home ministry has raised objections about the installation of Chinese-made radars in four coastal locations: Goa, Kochi, Mumbai and Paradip. Four radar costing Rs 12 crore each are with IMD awaiting clearance from the security agencies.

We are discussing the issue with home ministry officials and hope to resolved the issue shortly, Shailesh Nayak, secretary, ministry of earth sciences, told FE. The home ministry's concerns come at a time when telecom companies that source a large chunk of their equipment from China are facing a similar scrutiny.

The state-of-the-art Doppler radar is capable of weather surveillance up to a 400-km radius through analysing wind direction. Doppler radars have been used by many countries for weather forecast, Nayak said.

Sources said the key issues concerning the Doppler radar revolves around the in-built computer that studies frequency changes to show the direction and speed of winds blowing around raindrops, insects and other objects that are reflected in the radio waves. However, not all are convinced.

Given that radars are already in operation in many other locations, the security concern issue does not hold good, an IMD scientist said on condition of anonymity.

At present, IMD uses satellite pictures and statistical models to make seasonal climate forecasts. This has often proved to be unreliable in predicting rainfall patterns. Met department scientists say once the radar system is fully operational, the equipment would locate clouds, forecast their height, direction, speed and wind activity inside.

The statistical models are not proving too accurate and we dont have enough skills for using the dynamic models, Nayak had said during an earlier interaction. Within the next couple of years, we will be able to make short-term forecasts using the dynamic model.

Using the dynamic model, IMD would shortly make five-day weather forecasts for each region of the country. Nayak said under the Rs 400-crore Monsoon Mission, approved by the Cabinet recently, Monsoon Mission, approved by the Cabinet recently, the Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology is working on improving long-range and seasonal forecasts, while the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting in Noida is experimenting on improving medium-range (up to a fortnight) forecasts.