The Met department went overboard when it issued a severe thunderstorm warning that triggered widespread panic in Delhi and NCR on May 8, days after violent storms wreaked havoc in many parts of the country, a top Ministry of Earth Sciences official has said. Following the deadly thunderstorms of May 2-3, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) had issued an alert for May 8 forecasting that parts of north India, including Delhi, could be lashed by a thunderstorm and squall with winds gusting up to 50-70 kilometres an hour. “On that day (May 8), they went overboard. They (IMD) predicted a kind of severe system but that did not happen. That is true,” MoES secretary M Rajeevan told PTI when asked if the department had overreacted.
The warning triggered panic across the National Capital Region. The Delhi government ordered the closure of schools anticipating bad weather. However, there was no extreme weather activity as predicted by the Met department. “There was hype create by the people because it (the storm) had caused a lot of damage on May 2 and 3. When they (the IMD) issued the fresh forecast for the remaining days, they thought the same kind of severity will be there. (But) it was not there,” he said.
The IMD had come under considerable criticism for its extreme weather warnings. The top MoES official, however, added the IMD did not “goof-up” in issuing an alert for the May 2-3 high-intensity thunderstorms which killed over 120 people in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh had said it had not received a warning about a severe thunderstorm.
The MoES has several crucial institutions such as the IMD and Indian National Centre for Ocean Information System (INCOIS) under it. The INCOIS predicts extreme scenarios such as tsunamis. Rajeevan said predicting a thunderstorm was a difficult proposition compared to tropical cyclones and attempts were being made to make a forecast about a thunderstorm six hours before it hit an area.
At present, the IMD can only predict a thunderstorm 2-3 days before it occurs. “We predicted that there was a probability of a thunderstorm on May 2-3 two or three days before it hit the region. But the question was exactly at what time would it start, intensify and dissipate. We cannot tell that two days before (it happens),” he said.
He added that nowcasts — short-term weather forecasts — were issued by Lucknow and Jaipur for May 2 and 3. “I personally feel that the IMD has not goofed up. With the current technology available with us, that is the best way of doing it and they have done it,” he added.