A total of 86 automatic weather stations (AWS) have been installed by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) in different locations in the Northeast.

These stations have been established in all the eight states in the region: Arunachal Pradesh (16), Assam (27), Manipur (10), Meghalaya (7), Mizoram (8), Nagaland (10), Tripura (4) and Sikkim (4).

Union minister for science & technology, earth sciences and health and family welfare, Dr Harsh Vardhan, shared this information in a written reply to a non-starred question by BJP member from Rajgarh in Madhya Pradesh, Rodmal Nagar, in the Lok Sabha a few days ago.

The exercise is part of the ‘Integrated Meteorological Services for the North-East’ by MoES under the Central Government’s Atmosphere & Climate Research-Modelling Observing Systems & Services (ACROSS) scheme.

This initiative involves augmenting the entire observational network in the region to improve the weather and forecasting skills by commissioning state-of-the-art systems like 8 X-band Doppler weather radars, global positioning system (GPS) radiosonde systems, snow gauges, and augmentation of automatic weather stations, automatic rain gauges, etc.

The work includes setting up of observational network required for meeting aviation and other requirements through commissioning of automated weather observing system/heliport automated weather observing system (AWOS/HAWOS), setting up and upgrade of meteorological centres (MCs) and other facilities.

What is AWS?

An AWS is an automated version of a traditional weather station and serves as an invaluable resource for transmission or recording of weather-related information obtained through measuring instruments. The sensors embedded in the system convert such data into electrical signals. These are then processed and transformed into meteorological data for either further transmission for immediate use or stored for future reference.

AWS can be single-site or part of a weather network. Considered a benchmark in climate and boundary-layer meteorology, the AWS is generally utilised to assess surface weather observations like temperature, wind speed, wind direction, precipitation, humidity, solar radiation, atmospheric pressure and visibility. Some stations come loaded with advanced components to measure things like cloud height.

Other than basic instruments like a thermometer to measure temperature and a barometer to measure atmospheric pressure, the AWS also contains special instruments to calculate the surface weather observations. Common equipment in AWS for the measurement and transmission of atmospheric data includes weather sensor, lightning sensor, sensor shelter, rain gauge, data logger or network appliance, weather display and weather camera.

“Augmentation of the observational network will help fill the data gap areas in the region, leading to better accuracy of forecasts and consequent precision in climate monitoring, analysis and climate prediction,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said in his written reply. 

Compared to manually operated weather stations, AWS takes accurate measurements, consumes lesser power and offers enhanced reliability.

Due to the region’s proximity to the tropics, Northeast India has a largely tropical climate, especially in the valleys. The monsoon season is marked by heavy to very heavy rainfall from June to September. This leads to large-scale flooding and destruction during the season, especially in the Brahmaputra Valley, where the average rainfall hovers around 2,000 mm. For instance, in 2020, 50 lakh people were directly affected by flooding in Assam that left nearly 150 dead and forced 1.5 lakh to seek refuge in relief camps. 

Similarly, in the winter months, the higher reaches of Arunachal and Sikkim receive massive snowfall, thereby cutting them off from the rest of the country and affecting the normal movement of people and goods.

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