The state which has only used IMD weather inputs so far, decided to rely on multiple weather inputs this year.

IMD not enough Kerala ropes in private firms for weather forecasting
news Weather Tuesday, June 23, 2020 - 16:05

Kerala government has officially involved private weather agencies to improve weather forecasting and climate change alerts in the state, indicating that the Indian Meteorological Department's (IMD) inputs are not enough. 

A June 19 government order has authorised the release of Rs 95,64,964 to three private firms – Skymet Weather, IBM Weather Company, and Earth Networks, to source their expert services. According to the order, these firms have been roped in for “ensemble predictions to improve extreme weather alert services in the state," says the order accessed by TNM.

The order says that the firms’ services have been sourced on a nomination basis as a one-year pilot project. Further, 10% of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) which is already permitted to be used for the management of the State Emergency Operations Centre can be utilized for availing the private agencies’ services. 

This is a first for Kerala, as it has so far only relied on the Indian Meteorological Department or IMD’s weather inputs. The new system will now allow the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority to rely on multiple weather inputs for disaster response in the state. 

From the authorised fund, Skymet Weather has been allotted Rs 16, 81,500; Earth Networks, which operates hyperlocal weather networks, Rs 51,79,020; and IBM Weather Company, Rs Rs 27,04,444. 

In an earlier interview with TNM, Sekhar Kuriakose, member secretary of the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA), said that the government had unofficially taken weather inputs from some of these firms earlier. For instance, inputs were taken from Skymet Weather, which has around 100 weather stations in Kerala and have earth networks that have lightning warning systems globally, he said. 

These systems are also associated with most of the State Disaster Management Authorities in India, he added. 

Similarly, the state plans to make use of a IBM Weather Company model called GRAPH (Global High Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System). GRAPH was developed by IBM by collaborating with the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), a US-based federally funded research and development centre. 

“When we compared the 2018 and 2019 data, we saw that some of these models had better inputs. So, we decided to rely on them officially this year,” Kuriakose said. 

According to him, the inputs sought earlier from these companies were not to issue alerts, but for the government to improve the perspective of weather patterns in the state and be prepared. 

Kerala witnessed unprecedented rains which resulted in the August floods in 2018. In 2019 too, the state saw floods and landslides due to rains. This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kerala Chief Minister said that a repeat of floods coupled with the existing pandemic would spell a major catastrophe for the state. 

Weather experts predicted excess rains in the state this year too and the government has taken measures such as desilting water bodies in order to mitigate flooding. 

Sekhar added that this year the state wanted to have “maximum visualisation of the meteorological situation”, leading to its decision to collate and rely on multiple forecasts from various prediction agencies and even use some model outputs of these agencies. 

Also Read: How Kerala is preparing for monsoon amid the COVID-19 pandemic