Fani & Amphan: When IMD Proved Better Than US Weather Forecaster

Bhubaneswar: Correct forecast of a natural calamity can help save thousands of human lives and crores of rupees worth property. On the contrary, an incorrect one can cost mental stress and unnecessary mobilisation of sources. India Meteorological Department has of late been performing its role appreciably by accurately predicting the path of cyclones accurately, at times beating even the globally-acclaimed forecaster Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC), a US Navy and Air Force command that is responsible for issuing cyclone warning.

According to initial forecast of JTWC, Amphan over the Bay of Bengal would be the strongest tropical storm that will hit parts of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. It rated the cyclone as category 5 with sustained wind speed of 165 miles per hour and gusting up to 200 mph. As the days progressed, the forecaster kept changing the tracks of Amphan until it matched up with the prediction of IMD.

IMD’s forecast was precise: The cyclonic storm was lying over southeast of Bay of Bengal and is likely to intensify into severe cyclonic storm. The wind speed will reach 100 kmph to 110 kmph and curve towards North Odisha before reaching West Bengal at 155-165 kmph.

While JTWC’s forecast was for a larger area of the impact of Imphan, the IMD forecast with specifications. The US forecaster said the mouth of Bay of Bengal, low-lying Bangladesh and Myanmar will bear the brunt of the cyclone. IMD said it will have impact on North Odisha coast and Digha in West Bengal.

Similarly, JTWC said it will be the strongest tropical storm ever in Bay of Bengal while IMD head Mrutyunjay Mohapatra was clear that it will be less devastating than Fani but more than Bulbul.

Thirdly, JTWC claimed Amphan will inflict catastrophic damage in heavily populated and low-lying areas, which meant the cyclone will move towards land mass. But IMD forecast was that only seaside areas along the coast will face the cyclonic effect.

In the case of Fani also, glaring differences were marked in the forecast of the two forecasters. The IMD maintained the storm with wind speed of 185 kmph will cross the coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali with the landfall point expected closer to Puri.

But, JTWC kept on changing the projected path. Initially, it predicted the extremely severe cyclonic storm will cross the land near Puri and pass through the coastal areas of Kendrapara and Bhadrak. Next it showed the projected path over Chilika and then heading to Ganjam, Nayagarh, Khurda, Cuttack and further north. The US forecaster put its speed at 120-150 kmph.

The final movement and impact of the two cyclones not only prove IMD right but also cast shadow on efficacy of JTWC.

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