How Accurate are IMD Predictions

How Accurate are IMD Predictions

India’s tropical climate and diverse geographical features make weather prediction challenging.While the government is heavily investing in weather technology, addressing data gaps and training meteorologists are vital steps toward more accurate predictions


The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has recently faced controversy and criticism regarding its monsoon predictions. Many believe that the IMD is not as efficient as its counterparts in Western countries, and social media has been filled with jokes about the accuracy of IMD forecasts, particularly for Delhi. Despite several yellow and orange alerts issued by the Met department, they failed to accurately predict the monsoon in Delhi. People are also questioning why extreme weather events like a cloud burst at the Amarnath cave cannot be forecasted by meteorological experts, especially considering the government’s investment in new technology.

While these are valid concerns, the IMD has clarified that its predictions are the best under the given circumstances. Mistakes in predicting smaller weather developments such as light rains should not be used to measure the overall failure of the monsoon forecasts. Let us dive deep into the controversy.

Monsoon is not a standalone event

According to data gathered by the Data Intelligence Unit (DIU) of India Today spanning 20 years, IMD’s seasonal monsoon predictions have often been inaccurate. But before proceeding further, we need to understand some basics of meteorology.

The Indian monsoon is a complicated weather phenomenon which depends on multiple factors influencing each other to strike a fine balance. To assess monsoon behaviour in India, experts study three major factors:

  • The first is the analysis of El Nino and La Nina conditions – which are two phases of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. El Nino is characterised by warmer temperatures, while La Nina refers to a cooling period.
  • The second factor is the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), a climate pattern that affects the Indian Ocean.
  • The third factor is the assessment of snowfall in the Eurasian region. A favourable IOD and less snowfall in Eurasia indicate a greater possibility of a favourable monsoon in India.

While the predictions have marginally improved in the last five years, they still require further enhancement. To address this issue, the IMD has been working on a high-density meso-network (an automated network of weather stations that observe weather within a range of 10km to 1,000km) and high-resolution modelling framework for major cities to improve weather and air pollution monitoring, forecasting, and warning services.

Interpreting data is as crucial as collecting it

The accuracy of IMD’s forecasts is not solely determined by technology or models but also by the interpretation of data. While India has made efforts to enhance its weather prediction capabilities by acquiring advanced technology and expanding its radar network, the problem lies in the interpretation of data and satellite images by weather forecasters. Training meteorologists and improving technology and ground stations are crucial for improving forecasts, as stated by experts from both IMD and private forecasting agencies like Skymet.

The recent inaccurate weather predictions in Delhi are attributed to a significant data gap in different parts of the city. Predicting weather developments relies heavily on data collected by specialised equipment such as Doppler radars, satellite data, radiosondes, and surface observation centres. India lags behind advanced countries in Europe and America in these areas. However, experts argue that comparing the accuracy of weather forecasts across countries is not meaningful since India’s tropical climate and diverse geographical features make weather prediction more challenging. Factors like the climate crisis, landmass, coastal regions, and local weather phenomena further complicate the accuracy of forecasts in India.

The government committed to developing improved forecasting capabilities

Speaking to the media, IMD’s Director General Mr. M. Mohapatra acknowledged that no weather agency can be accurate all the time, and small misses in predicting weather developments should not be considered as a system failure. He emphasised that IMD’s forecasts have significantly improved in recent years and will continue to do so in the future.

In recent years, the Ministry of Earth Sciences has increased the budget allocation for IMD. The ministry has invested in high-performance supercomputers, established additional weather stations, and expanded the radar network in major cities. Long-range forecasts have generally been largely accurate in the past three years. However, the IMD’s overall performance in long-range monsoon predictions has been less consistent. While some accurate forecasts were made between 2011 and 2020, many others missed the mark by a significant margin. The government’s increased budget allocation demonstrates a commitment to improving forecasting capabilities, but addressing data gaps and training meteorologists are vital steps toward more accurate predictions.


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