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Faulty data stations cloud IMD weather predictions (Relevant for GS Mains Paper II and III, Topic: Poor infrastructure maintenance)

State of recently installed Rain gauges and Automatic Weather Stations
At least a quarter of the India Meteorological Department (IMD)’s recently installed rain gauges and Automatic Weather Stations (AWS), meant to supply hourly weather data from across the country, are not working to capacity.

Reaosns for such a state
Several instruments remain non-functional because of lack of qualified personnel to repair them.

The AWS, a key part of a modernisation drive and critical to improving monsoon forecasts and warning of emerging thunderstorms, cloudbursts and pollution spikes, are part of a Rs.1,000-crore upgrade of the department’s infrastructure, initiated barely four years ago in 2012.

These instruments are expected to relay hourly updates of temperature, sea level pressure and rainfall. Updated data from these instruments are necessary for climate research as well as the IMD’s fortnightly and weekly rainfall outlook over States. 

Problem in forecast
The lack of continuous and uniform data from these AWS impacts the accuracy of short-term (periods between 24 hours to five days) and medium-term (two weeks) forecasts.

View of IMD
A senior meteorologist associated with the organisation admitted, “There are problems with the network and sometimes nearly half of them aren’t working.” He added that though the AWS were automatic, they needed battery replacements and periodic re-calibration as the instruments were sensitive to changes in humidity. Many are located on hills and other hard-to-reach regions and could malfunction unless regularly maintained. However, a shortage of technical personnel has made maintenance and upgrades difficult.

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