IMD must work to become weather-ready, climate-smart: Paper

Vinson Kurian Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on February 27, 2020 Published on February 27, 2020

This would require strengthening of capacity and infrastructure, and development of partnerships

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) needs to broaden its realm from weather to climate services to transform itself into a world-class, weather-ready and climate-smart organisation, according to a paper.

The IMD serves as the nodal government agency, an may be regarded the National Meteorological and Hydrogical Service of India, says the paper, published in Current Science by Rajeev Kumar Mehajan, Abha Tewary and Shreekant Gupta.

Mehajan is with the Science and Engineering Research Board, Department of Science and Technology, Government of India; Tewary is with the Air Force Station, Sulur, Coimbatore; and Gupta is with the Delhi School of Economics.

Weather-ready, climate-smart

The theme of the World Meteorological Day for 2018, ‘weather-ready, climate-smart’, reiterated the looming threat of climate change and extreme weather events. Given its location, relatively low level of development and vast population, India is especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Successful transformation to being weather-ready and climate-smart is possible through the strengthening of capacity, consolidation of infrastructure, and development of partnerships.

The IMD should consider investing in procurement and promotion of human resources and experts from other cross-cutting domains to supplement its needs. These interdisciplinary resources can be amalgamated to provide user-specific climate services. This can perhaps be built into a national initiative, as an inter-ministerial mission led by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), suggests the paper.

It is a known fact that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration of the US has benefited immensely by such a convergence during the past few decades. In India, the repository of advanced research on climate change is the MoES, whereas the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change looks after international negotiations and domestic policies and actions related to climate change.

Expansion of services

The National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change is one of the eight national missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change launched in 2008. This Mission is anchored by the Department of Science and Technology, with the primary goal to develop appropriate institutional and human resource capacity in strategic knowledge on climate change. The paper recommends that an enabling and effective ecosystem like the MoES may consider taking up a convener role for the convergence of these knowledge resources.

The paper also acknowledges that since its establishment in 1875, the IMD has come a long way and has significantly expanded its infrastructure for observations, forecasting, early warning and statistical services. In order to design and deliver user-oriented climate services, the first step is to develop a clear understanding of what climate services are.

The distinction between weather services and climate services is that of time-scale and customisation of information to the specific requirements of different types of end-users. Weather services deal with imminent weather, whereas climate services deal with seasonal, decadal and much longer time-frames.

The IMD needs to expand its portfolio to include and enhance energy and health on a priority basis, says the paper. The conventional energy sector is mostly sensitive to temperature and precipitation. With a sustainable development agenda on the centre-stage, mainstreaming of renewable energy requires different types of observations and forecasts. To develop climate services in the energy sector, the IMD would need to develop suitable expertise in climate modelling in the domain.

Epidemic monitoring

As part of the adaptation strategy to incorporate climate information in routine health decisions, integrated data management systems are needed to analyse and monitor social indicators from surveillance by the Health Department along with climate and environmental observations, according to the paper.

Research collaborations can be explored in tele-epidemiology, wherein vegetation, meteorological and oceanographic data from satellites are used with hydrological and clinical data to build predictive mathematical models for epidemic monitoring.

The availability of huge past weather data and parameters at the IMD can be utilised for developing specific weather scenarios for different locations/zones, which will be of immense help in developing agro-advisories for specific scenarios. The ambit needs to include all the 22 crops, rather than being limited to the major crops, says the paper.

A sufficient lead time in the issue of advisories would enable the farmers to devise suitable response strategies. An advisory issued with insufficient lead time maybe informative, but is neither useful nor usable, it adds.

Published on February 27, 2020
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