A few weeks ago, a Facebook post by Pradeep John, a Chennai-based independent weather blogger who goes by the name ‘Tamil Nadu Weatherman’, stated that he was accused supposedly by an IMD official of ‘abusing science and creating sensation’ at an event that allegedly took place in Anna University. In a sharply-worded post, he wrote that it was his prerogative to decide what to post and what terminology to use in his Facebook page and that nobody else has the right to tell him what to do and what not to do.
The public post garnered widespread attention with many coming out in support of Pradeep John. The post, as on date, has around 14000 likes and 3300 comments to it. Though the noise around the post has died down, it threw open several questions around the role of private weather bloggers in the social discourse, and the relationship between them and the official meteorological agency of India, the Indian Meteorological Department.
Terms used is one’s own preference?
A Chennai-based independent weather blogger tells TNM that, in his view, the role of a private weather blogger is complementary to what the IMD does and not competitive to theirs.
“I'm sure he used the terms to convey the meaning and essence of the post easily to the readers,” he says, referring to Pradeep's style of presentation, where he sometimes uses colloquial phrases like 'red thakkalis' to mean thunderstorms (since they're visible as red blobs on the radar).
Explaining that the decision to use accessible, catchy phrases or the accurate technical terms is totally up to one’s preference, he says that he tries to stick to technically correct terminology in his posts. “I use technically correct terms in my forecasts because I feel it is a way to explain things to people and make them interested in the subject," he says.
The difference in responsibility
Delving further into the role of weather bloggers, he points out that while private weather bloggers can afford to forecast something that is days away and then apologise if their forecast goes wrong, the IMD does not enjoy that luxury.
“IMD has a protocol that they must follow. If they don't, they would be questioned by the authorities. They will have to go by what evidence is available at that particular point in time. You can't blame them. They have to take a middle ground and cannot take the risk of forecasting something too early and create panic,” he explains.
IMD has its own mandate
A senior official from the Regional Meteorological Centre, Chennai, says that the IMD has its own mandate and that the work it does falls strictly within the mandate.
“There is no reason for us to compare our work with theirs because as an agency, IMD has existed for a longer time than weather bloggers. So, I don't think it is fair to compare the kind of work both of us are doing,” he says, pointing out that comments on the work done by independent bloggers can lead to many complications too.
"The work we have itself is tight. It is not possible for us to monitor or question weather bloggers since it becomes very open-ended as to what we can ask and what we cannot. This is an age of information and everybody has access to information and social media. We at IMD have our mandate and we are working based on that mandate,” he reiterates.
Speaking about the particular incident that drew a sharp response from Pradeep John, he claims that it was not a current employee of IMD who made the remarks and that the opinion came from a retired personnel in his personal capacity. "There was no official participation from Chennai IMD in that event. I can say that it was made by some retired official," he adds.
Multiple attempts by TNM to reach Pradeep John did not succeed.