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Improving Climate Resilience

Context:

Earlier this week marked the 150th anniversary of the India Meteorological Department (IMD). While it currently addresses a wide range of climate and weather phenomena, from cyclones to fog, its initial purpose during colonial times was to investigate the intricacies of the southwest monsoon. Over the years, the IMD has amassed extensive meteorological data, forming the basis for its monsoon forecasts.

Relevance:

GS- 1- Physical Geography

GS- 3

  • Water Resources
  • Conservation of Resources
  • Cyclone
  • Disaster Management

Mains Question:

Prioritising regional and sub­district weather forecasts over national ones would be a commendable step forward by the government in enhancing climate resilience. Comment. (10 Marks, 150 Words).

India Meteorological Department (IMD):

Overview:

The IMD serves as the National Meteorological Service of the country and is the primary government agency for all matters related to meteorology and related subjects. It operates under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India.

Objectives:

  • To conduct meteorological observations and furnish up-to-date and forecasted meteorological information essential for the efficient operation of weather-sensitive activities such as agriculture, irrigation, shipping, aviation, offshore oil exploration, etc.
  • To issue warnings for severe weather phenomena like tropical cyclones, norwesters, dust storms, heavy rains and snow, cold and heat waves, etc., that may lead to loss of life and property.
  • To provide meteorological statistics necessary for agriculture, water resource management, industries, oil exploration, and other nation-building activities. To facilitate and encourage research in meteorology and related fields.

Evolution of the IMD Over Time:

Historical Background:

In 1864, Kolkata and the Andhra coast were hit by two devastating cyclones, resulting in substantial loss of life. The severity of these calamities underscored the absence of a system to monitor atmospheric parameters, leading to the establishment of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) in 1875.

Development of the IMD:

  • Official operations commenced with the appointment of HF Blanford, an Englishman recognized as the Imperial Meteorological Reporter.
  • Under the leadership of Gilbert Walker, appointed as the head of the IMD in 1903, significant progress was made in understanding monsoons.
  • Walker identified large-scale oscillations in atmospheric circulations, laying the foundation for the modern comprehension of the El Niño phenomenon.
  • Over 150 years, the IMD has transformed into a vast organization with permanent observatories and automatic weather stations nationwide.

Advancements in Cyclone Forecasting:

A pivotal moment occurred in 1999 during the Odisha super cyclone, prompting substantial investments in technology and manpower. Since then, cyclone-related casualties have notably decreased, attributed to the IMD’s effective forecasts. IMD’s cyclone forecasts now extend beyond India, benefiting the entire region, with as many as 13 countries utilizing these forecasts for their cyclone management systems.

Diversified Roles:

Originally focused on weather forecasting, the IMD now extends specialized services for elections, sporting events, space launches, and various sectors. Global Recognition: The IMD’s enhanced capabilities have led to its recognition as the Regional Climate Centre for South Asia. The IMD has partnered to contribute to the United Nations’ ‘Early Warning for All’ program, involving 30 identified countries.

Region-wise Trend Analysis in the Indian Monsoon:

  • An analysis conducted by researchers at the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW) delves into monsoon trends at the tehsil (sub-divisional) level from 1982 to 2022.
  • This analysis reveals that in more than half of India’s approximately 4,400 tehsils, or 55%, monsoon rainfall is increasing.
  • Conversely, around 11% of tehsils observed a decline in rainfall, with approximately 68% experiencing reduced rainfall in all four monsoon months, and 87% showing a decline during the crucial June and July period—critical for the sowing of kharif crops.
  • The majority of these tehsils are situated in the Indo-Gangetic plains, contributing to over half of India’s agricultural production, as well as in northeastern India and the Indian Himalayan region.
  • The research also discovered that 30% of India’s districts experienced multiple years of insufficient rainfall, while 38% encountered numerous years of excessive rainfall.
  • Some tehsils in historically dry regions such as Rajasthan, Gujarat, central Maharashtra, and parts of Tamil Nadu were undergoing a shift towards increased precipitation.
  • Changes were also observed in the northeast monsoon, affecting peninsular India during October, November, and December.
  • Over the past decade (2012-2022), northeast monsoon rainfall has risen by over 10% in around 80% of Tamil Nadu’s tehsils, 44% in Telangana, and 39% in Andhra Pradesh.
  • The southwest monsoon, contributing nearly 76% of India’s annual rainfall, contrasts with the northeast monsoon, which contributes about 11%.
  • The increasing susceptibility of India’s monsoons to extended dry periods and intense wet spells is well-documented, but the extent to which this can be attributed to natural variability versus global warming remains an active area of research.

Way Forward:

Analyzing Monsoon Performance at a More Localized Scale:

  • Given the considerable month-to-month fluctuations and the increasing frequency of intense wet events, making decisions at a localized level becomes paramount.
  • Hence, acquiring detailed data at a granular level is essential to offer comprehensive, actionable insights, ultimately improving disaster preparedness and response.

Formulation of Climate Action Plans at the District Level:

  • In alignment with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change’s (MoEFCC) directive in 2019, the revision of State Action Plans on Climate Change (SAPCCs) is underway.
  • It is advisable to create climate action plans at the district level to conduct thorough climate risk assessments in critical sectors such as agriculture, water, and energy.

Investment in Automatic Weather Stations and Community-Based Data Collection for Monitoring Rainfall Variability Locally:

  • Recognizing the necessity for hyperlocal climate adaptation strategies, it is recommended to invest in technologies like automatic weather stations and community-driven data collection initiatives.
  • These measures are vital for capturing rainfall variabilities at an extremely local level. Initiatives like the national Weather Information Network and Data System (WINDS) and community efforts play a crucial role in this regard.

Conclusion:

While colonial interests in weather were driven by revenue extraction at the regional level, such analyses now hold contemporary significance. They can inform region-specific plans to enhance climate resilience and allocate necessary funds and resources. Prioritizing regional and sub-district forecasts over national ones would be a commendable step forward by the government.


February 2024
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