I am writing this in context with last week’s cyclonic storm “Jal” and weather forecasting. The Indian Meteorological Department reported of a ‘Depression’ in the Bay of Bengal Sea on 1st November and as days passed by it was named as “Jal”. This was covered by the media very extensively. In the next 7 days, the first reported Depression was upgraded to ‘Deep Depression’ and then to a ‘Cyclonic Storm’ and then into a ‘Severe Cyclonic Storm’. The forecasts kept changing the intensity of the storm, its direction, its speed, the time of its hitting the coast and the level of destruction. This ‘Severe Cyclonic Storm’ was to hit and cross the East Coast of India between Nellore and Chennai. The expected high tides, heavy rains and strong winds at speeds higher than 140 km/h were to bring about large scale destruction and losses.
Andhra Pradesh, especially the coastal areas have previously suffered due to heavy rains this year. There was severe flooding in many towns and villages causing loss of human life, loss of crops, cattle and property. Now the threat of “Jal” being reported hour by hour stating that this Cyclonic Storm would cause immense destruction was very disheartening. The forecasts helped in evacuating people from storm prone areas, in positioning rescuers and making relief arrangements and warning fishermen and closing down schools. But ultimately by the time “Jal” touched the coast it weakened into a depression causing heavy rains. There was flooding once again at many places but luckily no destruction on the lines predicted for almost 7 days.
The turns and twists in forecasting during these 7 days give a strong impression that weather forecasts still have their limitations despite the use of modern technology and improved techniques. During normal climatic conditions the daily weather forecasts may be dependable and sometimes very accurate but at other times, the turbulent times and especially with the medium and long range forecasts the results may totally go wrong. This gives us an impression that the weather indicates something to the weathermen and then behaves in an entirely different manner, always trying to bluff its way and enjoy its ways.