BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
“People never pay attention to weather reports; this, I believe, is a constant factor in man's psychological makeup, stemming probably from an ancient distrust of the shaman. You want them to be wrong. If they're right, then they're somehow superior, and this is even more uncomfortable than getting wet,” wrote Roger Zelazny. And what he wrote many monsoons ago holds true in many ways today despite the advancements in forecasting by the Indian Meteorology Department (IMD).
Forecasting the weather in Goa, according to an article by former meteorological scientist Rahul M, “was established in 1860 after its parent organization started functioning in Portugal. Later on, the establishment got rechristened as Goa Observatory in 1963 as a part of the India Meteorological Department (IMD)”.
Anita Karandikar, senior meteorologist at IMD Goa
Accuracy of forecasts in India tends to be compared to those abroad, and the comparison normally does not stand in good stead, primarily because of the lack of awareness that leads to bias.
“Many a time, people don’t try to understand what we are telling them. We are trying to give our best, and we expect those receiving it to be able to take the best. This is not happening, and hence, the mistrust,” thinks Anita Karandikar, the senior meteorologist at the IMD Goa in Altinho.
A forecast is a forecast, and therefore, accuracy can never be one hundred per cent. “If the forecast was hundred per cent anywhere in the world, then we would need to change the word,” concludes Anita, as she studies the information flowing from the radar, Doppler charts, satellites and other sources.
“We have the most advanced systems in India. Therefore, it is wrong to say that other countries are better than us. Our forecast is as good as the forecast in other countries, but it is just that our topography is different and therefore a bit harder. Yet, we are amongst the best,” says Anita.
When the monsoon lands in Kerala, there is no scientific study to gauge when it will reach Goa. Though many in Goa believe it takes seven days.
“Once it lands in Kerala, it could take any number of days to reach Goa,” IMD Goa had predicted before the monsoon could fall in Kerala, and it reached Goa two days later.
“The topography in India is complex because we are close to the equatorial region compared to other countries in Europe, and yet our success ratio has improved a lot,” admits Anita while giving out details of the forecast of cyclone Tauktae on May 16, 2021, to the Coast Guard helped save lives.
The IMD in Goa had predicted that there would be pre-monsoon showers in Goa from June 4 to 7, and when there were rains, many were caught “unawares”. “How can one use the word unawares when we had already predicted the pattern of showers in advance?” asks Anita.
IMD in Goa is not just equipped with the best equipment but has over the years tried to reach out to everyone electronically and through social media.
“We have our own website mausam.imd.gov.in, and we try to reach fishermen and farmers through social media through our regular bulletins through Whatsapp and other forums,” discloses Anita.
“Observations are taken at the same time all over the world, and in India, it is at 8.30 am (3 GMT) and 5.30 pm (12 GMT). Ours are warnings to the public, and if one does not listen, it could lead to loss of life about which we then can do nothing,” admits Anita, as the discussion veers towards loss of life during rough weather conditions.
“When forecasting the weather, we even note down the thickness of ice in Antarctica. Ships in the ocean send us data, and we float balloons for upper air observation to record temperature, humidity, etc,” admits Anita as it becomes clear that the weather forecast in India, despite being difficult because of our topography, is with amongst the best in the world.
During the monsoons, it is expected to rain. Hence the people at IMD Goa will not be studying whether it is going to rain or not, but the emphasis will be on the severity of the rains; whether there will be storms; and the gusts of winds.
And as we enjoy the rains, for many in Goa it will be time to try and attentively follow the weather forecast instead of comparing the accuracy with the forecasts on foreign soil.