Chandrayaan mission finds maiden application in weather forecasts.
A few weeks back, Tamil Nadu government declared a holiday for all schools in Chennai fearing the heavy downpour that had been lashing the
city for over 10 days would continue. Schools remained closed and students had a great time, playing outside with not a drop of rain falling on their heads. Yet another weather forecast had gone wrong.
Now contrast this to what happened at Sriharikota on October 22nd. India was about to launch its most prestigious mission to date- Chandrayaan. And it was raining heavily. But the footages from the control room showed scientists in a very relaxed mood. As it happened, it rained before and after the launch, but during the blast off at 6:22 am, there wasn't a single drop of rain.
ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair, attributed this to weather modelling and forecasting techniques that the space agency had developed by using national and international scientific expertise.
"The weather all over the world is a mystery. I don't think anybody has deciphered it so far. But a team of scientists assembled here from various parts like ISRO, national aeronautics, lab, space physics lab, space application centre- they were running for the first time multiple simulation models based on fundamental physical principles. And these were assisted by observations we have from Kalpana spacecraft, Doppler weather radar developed by ISRO, and automatic weather stations and GPS atmospheric sounding equipment developed by ISRO. I can vouch for 48-hour weather prediction with 85% confidence level. And its 6-hour predictions are very precise. During the launch, everything went as per predictions." He added that ISRO would use this model for future launches.
Mr Nair said that ISRO is now in discussions with the Indian Meteorological Department to share some of these forecasting methods. "This is more relevant in the tropics. US and Europe already have well-established models for weather forecasting," he added.
"In this case, we created a model and ran software to predict weather for 6 hour, 12 hour intervals. Usually, the percentage of accuracy comes down with longer time lines. But, for the launch, we predicted weather for 48-hours with a confidence level of 85%. This could also go up to 72 hours in some models," said Mr Seshagiri Rao, deputy director- Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.
If this is widely used, it might come as bad news for students who prefer the playground to classrooms. But it could be a boon for people whose livelihood depends on accurate weather forecasts.