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Why weather forecasting is a tough job

By Kaustubh Kulkarni in New Delhi
June 29, 2009 13:24 IST
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Sir, it is raining in Mumbai and also in few others parts of Maharashtra," Dr A B Mazumdar attends his first telephone call of the day at his Pune office and gets excited. "Good news! And yes, check for rains in Marathwada region as well and keep me informed," Mazumdar tells his colleague over the phone and gets back to work.

A veteran weather forecaster, Mazumdar has been living in Pune since 1985 and is a workaholic.

Weather forecasting is a tough job, he admits, and adds that it involves a lot of routine technical work which is done by experts from the Indian Meteorological Department. "Predicting a development from a natural system is always tough. The forecast is made with the help of certain systems and models. But it remains a forecast and hence can go wrong sometimes," he says.

A product of the Banaras Hindu University, Mazumdar is a Master of Science in Geo-Physics. He later completed his doctorate in the same subject to join the IMD. "Being a weatherman brings along a lot of responsibility as well as a feeling of increased expectations. I love to work and spend a lot of time at the office," he says.

Before settling in Pune, Mazumdar held various key positions at the IMD in cities like Patna, Kolkata and Nagpur. As the monsoon approaches, he gets more involved in work and keeps visiting his office at odd hours and even on holidays.

In March, the IMD had predicted a normal rainfall across India during the June-September season. But the projections seem to have gone wrong and, not surprisingly, weathermen like him are being blamed for it.

"Forecasts can go wrong sometimes," he says. And then adds, "That is why it is a forecast. If all our forecasts came true then we would be called 'fortune-tellers' and not weathermen," he says with a smile.

When asked if he experiences a burden of expectations of a billion Indians when it comes to monsoon projection, Mazumdar says "No."

He adds, "We depend on our methods, models and systems. The projections are given with the help of these systems and hence, there are chances of those going wrong. But, we do our job sincerely."

The IMD announces four major projections every year on the progress of the monsoon, with the first one coming out in April. A number of weather forecast centres calculate the estimate and the final announcement is made from New Delhi.

Among these, the projection made from the Pune office is considered most crucial and accurate. And hence, Mazumdar and his team play an important role in this process.

This year though, they seem to have had a tough time. The monsoon has not progressed as per expectations. What is more worrying is a report published by the World Meteorological Organisation, which talks about adverse impact of 'El Nino' on India's monsoon.

But Mazumdar does not agree with this report. "El Nino generally develops close to the sea coast of Peru in South America and it hardly has anything to do with the monsoon. It does bring about a certain impact on global weather cycles but not in every case," he claims.

Although the monsoon has been delayed, its progress gives him a sense of relief and brings him joy.

"The monsoon is progressing fast and we should expect good rains over next two months," he states.

"Forget about the threats of El Nino and the month of August will see 101 per cent rains against last year's rainfall in August," he smiles. He ends up on a note of caution though, "Remember, this is just a forecast!"

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Kaustubh Kulkarni in New Delhi
Source: source

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