by Bob Henson
Medium-range weather forecaststhose spanning 3 to 10 daysmight
seem beside the point in the face of Indias legendary
monsoon. But the nations summer rains arrive in pulses that are
far from uniform, as was evident in the quirky monsoon of 2002 (see
illusration and sidebar). Predicting short-term variations in the monsoon
and other elements of Indian climate can make a big difference to agriculture
and human culture.
That case has been proven through a decade of work at Indias
National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting. The modelers of
NCMRWF are now expanding their facilities and their international ties.
In July the NCMRWF hosted a two-day mesoscale modeling workshop in New
Delhi that focused on the unique meteorology of the Himalayas, where
the worlds tallest mountains tower above lowlands. The 90 participants
included Al Kellie and Robert Gall (NCAR) and Karyn Sawyer (UOP Joint
Office for Science Support). Also last summer, the center formally accepted
a 24-processor Cray SV1 supercomputer acquired in 2001. Its the
first machine of its scope dedicated to the vagaries of Indian weather.
Founded in 1988, NCMRWF has earned a high profile in India by providing
what might be the worlds most elaborate system for agricultural
weather forecasting. The center employs NOAAs Eta model, a global
spectral model, and the Penn State/NCAR Mesoscale Model (MM5). Each
day NCMRWF uses these tools to prepare a 120-hour forecast of key weather
variables (with an effective lead time of four days) for each of 82
agrometeorological forecast offices across the country. Mass media outlets
relay the outlooks from these offices to local farmers.
Among the success stories:
- Wind and cloud forecasts help save an estimated US$200 per acre
in annual costs of irrigation, pesticides, and fertilizer for onion,
maize, and sorghum crops across South India.
- Wind outlooks have allowed farmers in western India to reduce their
insecticide and pesticide applications by 20%.
- After timely warning of a major frost, farmers applied light irrigation
to tomatoes and potatoes in North India, saving 30% of the crops that
otherwise would have been lost. Farmers who follow our advisories
earn about twice as much profit as those who do not, says L.S.
Rathore, one of the lead meteorologists at NCMRWF.
A member of UCARs International Affiliates Program, NCMWRF recently
signed a memorandum of understanding with NCAR and is building other
model-oriented connections with the U.S. National Centers for Environmental
Prediction, Florida State University, the University of Maryland, and
NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center. NCMWRF posts regular outlooks
for parts of Kenya, Qatar, and Sri Lanka on its Web site at the request
of those nations, and it wants to leverage its computing expertise to
help developing countries in the region.
The door is open for other parties whod like to work with the
center, says NCMWRF head S.V. Singh. We would
be interested in collaborating, he says, on global and mesoscale
models, data assimilation (including satellites and other remote sensors),
thunderstorm simulation, ensemble and coupled ocean-atmosphere modeling,
tropical cyclone forecasting, and visualization techniques.