Kerala to be Asias premier weather forecast hub with Rs 20-crore radar

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Nov 22 2010, 08:18am hrs
Kerala, the gateway to Indias southwest monsoon, is all set to emerge as a major monsoon-monitoring hub of Asia, as ministry of science and technology plans to set up a Rs 20-crore Stratospher Troposphere (ST) radar in Kochi.

Worldwide, there are only six other doppler radars of this kind. The key job of the new radar is to study the changing features of tropical easterly jet-stream and its linkage to monsoon activity, exchange processes in stratosphere and troposphere, the dynamics of summer monsoon and monsoon variability.

Hyderabad-based Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) has been signed up to build the radar for Cochin University of Science and Technology(CUSAT).

The science and technology ministry has formed a project implementation committee to supervise the setting up of the system, beginning with integration, installation, validation and commissioning within an year or two.

This radar would be the first one in the tropical belt, Kochi, being strategically placed near equator. With probably new findings, this equipment could change the course of climate change and monsoon variability in the country, K Mohan Kumar from department of atmospheric sciences, Cusat, said.

Since stratosphere is ozone-enriched, the radar would have a crucial role in studying climate change too, he told FE.

Ministry of science and technology has expedited climate change monitoring since agricultural researchers reported variations in Indias key crops, following phenomenal atmospheric changes. For instance, climatic change will render certain areas unsuitable for cultivation of various crops, says VA Parthasarathy of the Indian Institute of Spices Research (IISR), Kozhikode. Radar systems should be utilised for prediction of outbreak of plant diseases, in relation to climate change. Climatic changes not only hurts crop yields but also triggers emergence of invasive pests, vectors and pathogens.

Mustard, wheat and potato loses yield by 60%, 18% and 12%, respectively if there is high thermal stress during post-flowering period. Tracking climatic changes early, therefore, is important.

M Anandaraj, project coordinator (Spices), IISR,Kozhikode said.

Indian Navy and the Cochin International Airport (CIAL) too are likely to benefit from new radar as aircraft can get critical information on wind-speeds from it. The atmospheric sciences department of Cusat says that its location in Kochi gives a strategic advantage in data-collection. Once the monsoon is in, the radar would be able to pick up cloud formation and vertical wind activity up to 2,530 kms. This would give a head start in understanding the intensity, velocity and orientation of the jet stream.

The southwest monsoon enters mainland through Kerala coast. Kochi is placed in an altitude, where a sensitive ST radar can pick up the tropical activity in the Anamudi hills that net most of the monsoon rains.