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IIT-M to help improve monsoon prediction in the Indian subcontinent

IIT-M to help improve monsoon prediction in the Indian subcontinent

To advance the understanding of air-sea interactions towards improved monsoon prediction, the prestigious IIT Madras has established a Centre of Excellence (CoE) to study oceanic and atmospheric flows affecting the Indian subcontinent and collect more data by deploying unmanned aerial systems for high-resolution environmental monitoring.

Geophysical Flows Lab, established with funding from the Union Government’s ‘Institute of Eminence’ initiative, aims at achieving spatial coverage of upper ocean and lower atmospheric measurements, using state-of-the-art oceanography and remote sensing techniques.

For the first time, the Centre has developed and deployed unmanned aerial systems for high-resolution environmental monitoring over the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal to collect “more and more” high-resolution data about the atmosphere and ocean to study how monsoon systems evolve before they make landfall.

The goal is to contribute to ongoing efforts for improved predictions of monsoons at lead times of days to weeks, with specific details of how monsoon weather systems evolve and how much rainfall they would bring in a given region, professors involved in the research told DH.

Other aims of the CoE include process observations and targeted surveys of the coastal regions of the northern Indian Ocean, rivers, estuaries, and contiguous land, design, and development of autonomous unmanned aerial systems for meteorology and oceanography, and laboratory modelling of small-scale processes influencing the upper ocean structure.

Monsoons in south Asia affect more than two billion people through its impact on climate, hydrology, and ecosystems across the region, besides agriculture, fisheries, and industry. The Centre will undertake a targeted survey of the largely unexplored coastal regions (within 300 km from land) of the north Indian Ocean using the emerging technology of UAVs in tandem with state-of-the-art oceanography techniques.

“Even within a monsoon season, there are wet and dry phases. We want to contribute to national efforts to understand the ocean’s role in these wet-dry cycles of the monsoon,” Prof Manikandan Mathur, faculty, Geophysical Flows Lab CoE, IIT-M, told DH.

The CoE is working with the Ministry of Earth Sciences and other agencies such as ISRO-SAC both for basic science and applications. “For example, ongoing national efforts are aimed at improving monsoon and ocean forecasts for agriculture, fisheries and climate-related hazards,” the professor added.

Mathur said “fine scales” are not adequately captured by current climate models, and the Centre’s efforts will focus on the physics of these fine spatial and temporal scales in the coastal ocean and atmosphere.

“We want to use drones developed at IIT-M, and other resources to generate more and more fine-scale data from the lower atmosphere and upper ocean, which interact with each other and exchange a lot of energy, thereby impacting the evolution of monsoon weather”, he added.

The professor said since there is limited knowledge and understanding of the interaction of 100 km scale storms with underlying ocean or land, the research initiative will study fundamental processes that influence air-sea interactions over the coastal ocean for an improved understanding of the spatio-temporal organization of monsoon rainfall.

Prof. Anubhab Roy, Faculty, Geophysical Flows Lab CoE, IIT-M said another priority area will be fine-scale process modelling in the lab via experiments, simulations, and theoretical modelling, of small-scale processes influencing the upper ocean structure in the northern Indian Ocean.

“This would advance our understanding of various dynamic and thermodynamic processes influencing air-sea interactions in the northern Indian Ocean and thus the relative importance of accurately parameterizing them in climate models. This activity would be a natural continuation of ongoing research on rotating and stratified flows at IIT-M,” he added.


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