Pune Science Weekly: “Being a meteorologist is a 24/7 job”

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The mind of Meteorologist Krishnanand Hosalikar is often busy pondering ways to deliver the latest available weather updates to the desired last mile user located in remote locations of India.

And, during the three decades of service at the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), it became his life’s mission.

Weather forecasting, says Hosalikar, is one of the most difficult tasks.

Climate change and associated uncertainties increase spatially and temporarily in parallel with their severity. This added further complexity to weather systems and therefore to forecasts.

Analyzing and decoding weather patterns, scanning IMD satellite and radar images, even at odd hours of the day, may be just the tip of the iceberg.

“I gave up the idea of ​​working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. a long time ago. Being a meteorologist is a 24-hour job, and that’s the job requirement,” says Hosalikar, who took over as head of IMD’s Climate Research and Services (CRS) office in Pune last month. It was there that he had joined as a trainee in 1992.

He became one of the faces of IMD, which mostly got bricks for its forecasts and precipitation forecasts until powerful weather models, high-performance computing machines, tools and technologies came to the rescue in recent years.

Competing with many government and individual Twitter accounts for shared information, Hosalikar now has over 19,000 followers on the social media platform. There are perhaps only a few like Hosalikar who have managed to effectively use social media to provide real-time weather information.

“If I’m traveling and can’t tweet weather updates at my usual times, I get phone calls asking about the delay. The key is to present timely weather information in local languages ​​that’s both user-friendly and It’s not easy,” says Hosalikar.

Coming from a modest background, he credits his training in the National Cadet Corps (NCC) with shaping his youth in Mumbai. Hosalikar began his professional career in 1987 as a physics lecturer at KJ Somaiya College of Science and Commerce.

“I never imagined that I would be a meteorologist one day. Being a physics teacher helped me prepare for the Union Civil Service Commission exam,” he recalls.

Joining India’s premier meteorological agency and serving as a meteorologist in many places across the country was a learning experience, he says.

“I can interact with different types of people – government officials, disaster managers, farmers, students, media and others. And knowing the weather requirements of each stakeholder is vital,” he adds.

“Sometimes there are criticisms, but they teach me a lot. Whenever I miss the information I seek, I go back to basics and chat with fellow meteorologists and experts,” he shares.

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Coming from the Instrumentation Science major, his first job was at Palam Airport in Delhi. Whether it’s harsh winters in the nation’s capital, commuting to the office jumping over tempos or passing trucks, or living in areas dominated by Haryanvi speakers, work has brought new experiences. to this meteorologist from Mumbaikar.

Later, a year-long stint at Shillong’s Central Seismological Observatory was far too picturesque with frequent earthquakes adding to the never-before-seen experiences of life. Hosalikar shares that he even learned the basics of the Khasi language in order to communicate with the locals.

But, he recalls the fascinating memory etched to this day: “Since the office was located on top of a hill, the clouds came into my office. At first they were very scary. As they passed, they would leave offices covered in dew and damp.

While Antarctica still remains largely a continent protected from tourists, Indian scientists are regularly sent on missions to the South Pole for fixed periods. The IMD is mandated to establish, operate and maintain meteorological instruments at the South Pole throughout the year.

Early in his career, Hosalikar seized such an opportunity in late 1995 to represent IMD on a mission to Antarctica.

What the 15-month stay taught him is: “The sky above the South Pole and the weather above Antarctica are so unique and unpredictable that they humble man and realize the true power of nature.

Hosalikar has farmer friends across Maharashtra. Many consult with the senior meteorologist regularly, either by telephone or in person during field visits. Its connection with farmers has been an added boon to IMD in its continued expansion of its weather observation networks.

“Farmers are more than willing to allow IMD to install our Automated Weather Stations (AWS) and instruments on their own land. This is also done with the assurance that no one other than IMD staff will be allowed to handle the implements,” Hosalikar shares, adding, “It pains me greatly to hear from a farmer that a harvest failed due to bad weather.

Mumbai has been his karmabhoomi for many years, where he was instrumental in introducing at least three of IMD’s leading weather products to India’s financial capital, which floods every monsoon season.

The laying of a meso-scale AWS network in the densely populated city – where it is almost impossible to get an inch of land for instrument installation – was completed under Hosalikar’s guidance.

“IMD and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation have partnered for this project. We are now able to provide rainfall information for the 140 most flood-prone hotspots every 15 minutes,” Hosalikar shares.

As the world shifted to work-from-home mode after the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, the Regional Meteorological Center in Mumbai rolled out the Integrated flood warning system – a flood monitoring system capable of relaying flood warnings between 6 and 72 hours in advance. In 2015, the introduction of the Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) System – Mumbai, (carried out in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology based in Pune), facilitated the task of the BMC in developing plans to improve the city’s environment. .

Her family, Hosalikar says, have been a strong but silent support system and over the years have accepted her long working hours.

Whether it’s a cyclone approaching Odisha, a flow of western disturbances affecting visibility at airports in northern India, or an extreme rainfall event in the country, the meteorologist in he only falls asleep late at night.

Being in such a stressful job, Hosalikar says the weather even inspires him to write poetry. The monsoon is close to his heart.

“While watching the weather around me, sometimes I write a few lines and it comes with a natural flow. It’s a stress reliever,” says Hosalikar.

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