Hyderabad: Around the beginning of the New Year, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) deployed its new, swanky website. The user interface was improved, and the overall look of the website was well-received.
However, weather enthusiasts and researchers are unimpressed. They say the new website does not offer a lot of data that was freely available in the older one. This, they say, will handicap the budding meteorologist community.
According to lists created by a few independent meteorologists, the new website does not offer many services, including access to high resolution sector, division and full disk images of satellite, maps of cloud temperature and the upper troposphere and so on.
Navdeep Dahiya, a B.Sc student from Chandigarh University, was among the first to raise the objection on Twitter. He said meteorology was an under-explored subject in India, and IMD’s latest move would not be helpful for students interested in the subject. He argued for transparency of government data since it is procured using public money.
Speaking to Deccan Chronicle, Mr Dahiya said, “I must make it clear that even the old website was not ideal. But the new website is even worse. There are many forecasting products with regard to satellite and radar data that is no longer available to us.”
Santosh Subramanian, a weather enthusiast from Kolkata, said, “The point of having government data should be ease of accessibility to everyone. The general public should be able to see all of it.”
He illustrated with an example: “The new website does not offer data on upper cloud top temperatures. This data helps meteorologists predict hailstorms. Now, no independent researcher can send out hail storm warnings if they depend solely on IMD data.”
Meanwhile, Madhavan Rajeevan, secretary, ministry of earth sciences, on Twitter replied to Mr Dahiya’s tweet, saying that more products would soon be added to the new website.
However, he admitted that not all products available in the old website would be made available in the new one since they are meant only for “trained forecasters”. Mr Rajeevan could not be reached for a comment on the issue.
Rajani Poola, a Hyderabad-based climate-research enthusiast who frequently puts out forecasts on his Twitter account, said the new situation will certainly be a handicap to people like him. He said enthusiasts could still use other websites, some of which are free-to-use.
However, most of these websites are not Indian.
“IMD has a lot of weather models that are customised for our country. These models are no longer available for us. So any forecasts we make may not be as accurate as before,” Mr Poola said.
Mr Dahiya has noted another problem with using foreign data.
“The maps used in these websites are different from those of the IMD. They don’t show PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) in India, and there might be trouble if we publicise them,” he said.
The enthusiast community believes IMD’s move could be to deflect or avoid criticism.
Mr Rajani said, “A lot of bloggers have used IMD data to criticise IMD! I don’t think IMD liked that. This could be one reason. Also, many bloggers do not credit IMD when they use its data. The community thinks this might be another reason.”
Mr Rajani said the matter was not entirely black-and-white.
“There are certain people in the community who think IMD is right. This, they think, will curb misuse of data and inaccurate forecasts. Personally, I would be more disturbed if IMD sold its data to people in a subscription-based model. If that happens, it would be very disturbing,” the climate-research enthusiast said.
After the criticism it came under, IMD added all radar image products that were available in the older website.
Also, second temperature observations, extreme weather and climate data were later added to the website as well....