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US technology to help India chase monsoon

28 December 2009

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The US will offer India advanced satellite images on weather patterns over Indian Ocean. To help Indian scientists analyse and interpret the satellite images, a supercomputer will also be provided, as per a new agreement.

The US will provide India with advanced satellite data to predict and track the monsoons with a greater degree of certainty, thus reducing chances of economic dislocation and loss of lives as a result of floods and droughts.

The US has agreed to provide India with imagery from its satellites on weather patterns over the Indian Ocean and the subcontinent that will allow scientists to predict rainfall 15 days in advance. At present, Indian scientists can predict the monsoons only one-and-a-half days in advance.

It will also supply India a supercomputer that can analyse and interpret the satellite images.
The Planning Commission on Thursday agreed to provide funds to the Department of Earth Sciences to buy the super computer.

The exact amount will be decided after the department makes a detailed presentation on financial requirements.

Climate change has made weather forecasts difficult for the Indian Meteorological Department. Unpredictable monsoons can cause losses of 1-1.5% of Indian GDP. In absolute terms, this ranges between Rs 40,000 crore and Rs 75,000 crore.

“Once the systems are in place, we will have a capacity to predict monsoon region-wise quite correctly 15 days in advance,” said a senior Planning Commission official.

The fine print of the data sharing agreement was worked out recently at a meeting of a joint committee of scientists from the two countries.

A study by G.N. Goswami, director of Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, had found between 1901 and 2004, the predictability of the monsoons has fallen from three days to one-and-a-half days.

“This is because of higher frequency of extreme weather conditions and increased potential instability of the atmosphere,” he said in a paper in Geophysical Research Letters in 2008.

Increased instability happens because of higher concentration of green house gases in the atmosphere.

“To overcome the increased difficulty in predicting monsoons, a significant increase in efforts to improve models, observations and enhancement of computing power is required,” the study said.

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