What is Doppler Weather Radar and How Will It Help India Manage Disasters?

The installation of 25 more Doppler Weather Radar systems is expected to help better track disasters in real-time.

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The India Meteorological Department (IMD) will deploy 25 additional Doppler Weather Radar systems across India by 2025 in an effort to strengthen its weather forecast system and better track and predict disasters and extreme weather events, the weather authority said on Sunday, 15 January.

The announcement comes months after parts of northeast India, including Assam and Meghalaya, were struck by floods, displacing over 4 lakh people, and killing at least 50 people. In total, in 2022 there were over 2,220 deaths related to extreme weather events in the country.

The move is expected to help the IMD better predict disasters and reduce the loss of life and damage to property.

But how will more Doppler Weather Radar systems accomplish this? What can we expect once they're installed? How much will they really help? Keep reading.


What is Doppler Weather Radar?

RADAR, which is short for Radio, Detection, and Ranging, is a radiolocation system used to track aircraft, motor vehicles, spacecraft, and to map weather patterns and terrain.

Doppler Weather Radar (DWR), on the other hand, uses the Doppler effect to gauge data about objects at different distances. In case you missed your science lessons in school, the Doppler effect refers to the change in the frequency of sound or light waves in relation to the observer of the light or sound. In simple terms, if you're playing music in your house, you'll be hearing it at a different frequency than, say, someone in the next room.

DWR uses this very principle to survey and better predict the weather, thunderstorms, cyclones, and other potential disasters in real-time, as well as forecast changes over a larger area. DWRs are equipped to measure wind speed, temperature, cloud movement, storm activity, and a much wider range of data parameters as opposed to regular weather forecasting systems.


Do We Need Additional DWR Systems?

The ability to better track and forecast natural disasters and extreme weather events is expected to help minimise loss of life.

For context, apart from over 4.7 lakh people who were displaced by floods in northeast India, thunderstorms and lightning claimed the highest number of lives in 2022 in India, with 1,285 lives lost, according to the Annual Statement on the Climate of India by the IMD. That's more than half of the 2,220 deaths that extreme weather events caused in India in 2022.

Over 830 of these deaths were due to floods and rain, flood, and landslides. DWRs are expected to help reduce this number significantly.


How Will Doppler Weather Radar Systems Help?

Additional DWR systems are expected to give the most accurate readings of weather indicators. including wind speed, rain, cyclones, hail, thunderstorms, floods, and other phenomena.

On their own, DWRs can also to volumetric analyses of clouds to better estimate rain, storms, precipitation, and cyclone activity.

At present, India has 37 Doppler Weather Radar systems, and aims to add 25 more by the year 2025, for a total of 62. 11 of these new systems will be across northeast India, while eight will be installed in the plains. (have brought this down from up)

The larger area of coverage is also expected to be an important improvement over existing weather systems, according to the IMD.

Real-time detection of disaster threats is DWR's specialty, with systems able to detect cyclonic activity within 200 km of the coast.

The utility of DWRs goes well beyond weather forecasting. The Indian Army and Air Force both use the Indian Doppler Radar (INDRA) to detect and track aircraft and other threats.

Globally, the US has deployed over 148 DWR systems to track oceanic activity and cyclones.

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Topics:  IMD   Rain   Flood 

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