IMD, NDMA make common alert protocol to warn ahead of severe weather

The necessity for such an alert protocol, also suggested by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), comes in the wake of over 2,000 annual deaths due to lightning strikes reported in India in recent years.

THE INDIA Meteorological Department (IMD) and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) have initiated works to devise a common alert protocol, which will be issued ahead of any severe weather events like lightning, thunderstorms or heavy rainfall over a locality.

These alerts will be hyper localised and targeted for a specific village, helping the local administration and people to stay prepared. These Nowcast alerts, valid for half-an-hour to three hours, are planned for health, transport, urban utilities and power sectors.

This was shared by officials of the IMD during an online awareness workshop on lightning and thunderstorms, organised by the India Meteorological Society on Monday.

Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director general, IMD, said, “There is greater need for collaborations with all stakeholders and NGOs. The IMD will increase the number of stations that will relay lightning alerts at block and panchayat levels from the current 1,085 stations.”

Sharing similar views, Rajendra Singh, member, NDMA, said there is a need for sharing more information.

The necessity for such an alert protocol, also suggested by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), comes in the wake of over 2,000 annual deaths due to lightning strikes reported in India in recent years.

Such high mortality due to a single weather event like lightning is significant in comparison to tropical cyclones, which claim less than 100 lives in a year in India.

“The frequency of lightning events has increased in the past 25 to 30 years. One of the reasons is the depleting forest covers,” said S D Pawar, scientist and lightning researcher at Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.

Northeast India is more prone to lightning and associated deaths, said Soma Sen Roy, an IMD scientist.

“The high altitude of Western ghats prevent moisture from reaching inland — creating a favourable atmosphere for thunderstorms — ensuring fewer lighting events along the western India. Whereas, the relatively lower altitude of the Eastern ghats do not prevent the moisture as much, which when interact with high temperatures prevailing over east India, resulting in frequent and long lasting lightning events. The orography over east India supports the development of thunderstorms,” added Roy.

The states with highest casualty due to lightning include Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand followed by Bihar, Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The deceased are mostly men, who work outdoors with lightning striking them during during daytime, she said.

Though thunderstorms and lightning occur between April and September, the frequency increases during June and August.

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