India Meteorological Department (IMD) is completing 150 years of service in the annals of our nation’s scientific progress. The beginnings of meteorology in India can be traced to ancient times. Read here to learn more about the IMD.
The history of meteorology in India is rich and spans several centuries. Meteorology, the study of the Earth’s atmosphere and its phenomena, has played a crucial role in understanding weather patterns, predicting natural disasters, and supporting various sectors of the economy.
India Meteorological Department (IMD) with the mandate of providing public weather services will complete 150 years of presence on 15th January 2025.
History of Meteorological Services in India
Early philosophical writings of 3000 BCE, such as the Upanishads, contain serious discussions about the processes of cloud formation and rain and the seasonal cycles caused by the movement of the earth around the sun.
- Varahamihira’s classical work, the Brihatsamhita, written around 500 CE, provides clear evidence that a deep knowledge of atmospheric processes existed even in those times.
- It was understood that rains come from the sun (Adityat Jayate Vrishti) and that good rainfall in the rainy season was the key to bountiful agriculture and food for the people.
- Kautilya’s Arthashastra contains records of scientific measurements of rainfall and its application to the country’s revenue and relief work.
- In his epic, ‘Meghdoot’, Kalidasa, written around the seventh century, even mentions the date of onset of the monsoon over central India and traces the path of the monsoon clouds.
The British East India Company established observatories in various parts of India during the 17th and 18th centuries. These observatories focused on astronomical observations, including weather-related phenomena.
- British administrators and scientists conducted climatological studies to understand the seasonal patterns in different regions of India. The Bombay Observatory, founded in 1826, played a significant role in early meteorological research.
India has some of the oldest meteorological observatories in the world.
- The British East India Company established several such stations, for example, those at Calcutta in 1785 and Madras (now Chennai) in 1796 for studying the weather and climate of India.
- The Asiatic Society of Bengal founded in 1784 at Calcutta, and in 1804 at Bombay (now Mumbai), promoted scientific studies in meteorology in India.
- Captain Harry Piddington at Calcutta published 40 papers during 1835-1855 in the Journal of the Asiatic Society dealing with tropical storms and coined the word “cyclone”, meaning the coil of a snake.
- In 1842 he published his monumental work on the “Laws of the Storms”. In the first half of the 19th century, several observatories began functioning in India under the provincial governments.
India Meteorological Department (IMD)
In 1875, the Government of India established the India Meteorological Department, bringing all meteorological work in the country under a central authority.
- H. F. Blanford was appointed Meteorological Reporter to the Government of India.
- The first Director General of Observatories was Sir John Eliot who was appointed in May 1889 at Calcutta headquarters. The headquarters of IMD were later shifted to Shimla, then to Poona (now Pune), and finally to New Delhi.
The IMD expanded its network of observatories across the country to monitor and record weather conditions.
- The department focused on providing weather forecasts and warnings to support agriculture, shipping, and other sectors.
- Significant efforts were made to study and understand tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal.
- The IMD developed capabilities for cyclone tracking and prediction, leading to improved disaster preparedness.
After India gained independence in 1947, the IMD underwent modernization efforts. Advanced technologies, such as weather radars, satellite imagery, and computer models, were incorporated into meteorological practices.
- The IMD established regional meteorological centers to enhance the coverage of weather monitoring and forecasting services across different states in India.
- The IMD expanded its services to provide specialized agriculture, aviation, and disaster management forecasts. The department’s role extended beyond weather predictions to include climate monitoring and research.
India became a member of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1948, facilitating international collaboration in meteorological research and data exchange.
Objectives of IMD
It is the National Meteorological Service of the country and the principal government agency in all matters relating to meteorology and allied subjects.
- To take meteorological observations and to provide current and forecast meteorological information for optimum operation of weather-sensitive activities like agriculture, irrigation, shipping, aviation, offshore oil explorations, etc.
- To warn against severe weather phenomena like tropical cyclones, norwesters, duststorms, heavy rains and snow, cold and heat waves, etc., which destroy life and property.
- To provide meteorological statistics required for agriculture, water resource management, industries, oil exploration, and other nation-building activities.
- To conduct and promote research in meteorology and allied disciplines.
There are separate Divisions to deal with specialized subjects. They are:
- Agricultural Meteorology
- Civil Aviation
- Meteorological Telecommunication
- Regional Specialised Meteorological Centre
- Positional Astronomy
- Satellite Meteorology
At present IMD is under the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).
Functions and Responsibilities of the India Meteorological Department (IMD)
- Weather Forecasting: The IMD is responsible for issuing weather forecasts for different regions of India, covering short-term and extended periods. These forecasts are crucial for planning various activities, including agriculture, outdoor events, and disaster response.
- Cyclone Tracking and Warning: The IMD monitors and tracks tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. It issues warnings and advisories to the public, coastal authorities, and disaster management agencies to minimize the impact of cyclones.
- Climate Monitoring: The IMD conducts climate monitoring, providing information on temperature patterns, rainfall, and other climate-related parameters. It contributes to climate studies and assessments, including the impact of climate change.
- Agricultural Meteorology: The IMD offers specialized services for agriculture, providing weather-based advisories to farmers. These advisories assist in crop planning, irrigation, and pest management.
- Aviation Services: The IMD supports aviation operations by providing weather forecasts and observations for airports across the country. This ensures safe take-offs and landings, especially during adverse weather conditions.
- Research and Development: The IMD engages in meteorological research and development activities. It continually updates its technologies and methodologies to enhance the accuracy of weather forecasts and climate predictions.
- Earthquake Monitoring: The IMD monitors seismic activities and provides information related to earthquakes. While not directly related to meteorology, earthquake monitoring is part of the overall disaster management efforts.
Initiatives related to meteorology
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) operates a network of observatories, including surface weather stations, upper air observatories, and coastal observatories, to collect meteorological data.
- Radar and Satellite Facilities: The IMD uses radar and satellite facilities for weather monitoring, cyclone tracking, and climate studies.
- Numerical Weather Prediction Models: Advanced numerical weather prediction models are employed to simulate atmospheric conditions and improve the accuracy of weather forecasts.
- National Monsoon Mission (NMM)
- Mausam App
- Doppler Weather Radars
- Meghdoot Agro
- Damini Lightning
India developed its remote sensing capabilities and launched satellites for weather monitoring, including the Indian National Satellite System (INSAT) and the Indian Meteorological Satellite Program (Kalpana, INSAT-3DR, etc.).
India Meteorological Department (IMD) launched a National Framework of Climate Services (NFCS) at its 150th anniversary.
- NFCS aims to strengthen the production, availability, delivery, and application of science-based climate monitoring and
- NFCS is premised on the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) launched by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
- NFCS will mitigate climate risks for key sectors, namely Disaster risk reduction, Agriculture and food security, Water
resources, Public health, and Energy.
IMD also launched
- Weather Analysis and Forecast Enabling System (WAFES), a Web-GIS-based integrated Decision Support System (DSS).
- It provides real-time information for various sectors such as Urban, Power, Hydrology, Health, Energy, Agriculture, Transport, and Tourism under the “UPHHEATT” initiative (for the cause of welfare).
- Panchayat Mausam Sewa Portal to help farmers in planning their agricultural activities.
The history of meteorology in India reflects a gradual evolution from early observations and British-era observatories to the establishment of a modernized and technologically advanced Indian Meteorological Department.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) continues to play a crucial role in providing weather forecasts, monitoring climate trends, and contributing to international efforts in meteorological research.
The IMD’s continuous efforts in weather forecasting, climate monitoring, and disaster management contribute significantly to the safety and well-being of the people of India. The department remains a key institution in supporting various sectors that rely on accurate and timely meteorological information.
-Article by Swathi Satish