Monday, June 29, 2009

The Greening of the Met........

Time and again, our Met Office fails to predict the rains.

A few days ago , a week ago on Monday, someone there made a prediction, that the monsoon, would set in on Wednesday. With thunder showers. So desperate is the disbelief in the Met office, that hundreds of people went to work, on Tuesday itself , armed with assorted rain gear. Tuesday afternoon saw the clouds mobilising for the great event, with rain winds wildly rustling through the trees, the earth gave off that particular fragrance it does when it gives up on summer finally, and Tuesday saw a proper rain in the evening, like a strong preamble. At this point the Met Office forecast thundershowers the next day. Almost everyone in Mumbai knew there would be rain , even without the official prediction.

And predictably, there was no thunder. Again.

Maybe time has now come for us to review our current weather prediction technology.

The Doppler radar , advertised as God's gift to Mumbai's Met Office, has arrived, 4 years after the July 2005 deluge, and since it takes 2-3 months to set up, will be useless this year.

I sometimes feel very disappointed with technology , particularly if it involves needles doing graphs, and humans taking casual looks at them between sips of tea, and postulations about El Nino,Global warming,Al Gore and other burning topics of the day..

So I have a very environment friendly, Green etc suggestion . There are certain techniques , used worldwide , for weather prediction. Implementing those will not involve importing machines that become obsolete, or terribly current machines getting hit by a falling flyover or tree or whatever.

In fact , what I suggest , will totally green the city.....

Compulsory planting of mangroves along the coast of Mumbai, leaving gaps for the harbour, beaches, and unavoidable points of natural entry into the sea. Banning of political meetings in green spaces earmarked for the citizens. Better upkeep and enhancement of the Mahim Nature Park, the only refuge of the remaining mangroves. And a wish that at some point, Nandan Nilekani is appointed as the "saviour" of Mumbai....

Upgradation of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park with facilities for housing a large variety of animals and birds, with sufficiently expertly trained manpower to manage and monitor the quality and maintenance of the park resources.

Just outside the perimeter of the park , a science park for students, with appropriate observation machines like telescopes and microscopes, as well as a huge vegetable growing section, managed by the tribal original residents of that park area.

Why ? To predict the weather, is the simple answer.

Children at the science park , learning to observe the spectrum around the sun and moon, can become experts in predicting rain. If the diameter of the visible spectrum around the sun is bigger than that around the moon, rain is likely in a couple of days. Don't know about thundershowers. The crops need water, not noise , no?

Sparrows twittering together in a dry sand bed, indicates impending rain in a day or so. However, if they are fooling around in a pool of water, it means dry days are approaching.

Look for eggs of the Lapwing bird (Titwi). This bird never builds nests, but lays eggs of bare soil. If the eggs are found on a higher elevation in the fields/park, it means good rains are around the corner. Eggs laid in the lower level parts of the field, imply a confidence that there will be no danger from any rain, and hence there may be a drought.

If you see Mynah birds (starlings) bathing in water, it mean rain is around the corner.

Sometimes, you can observe insects around the house .Like dragonflies/monsoon flies. If you observe them swarming around over dry areas, it means rain in imminent. However, if they are seen over pools of water, then get ready for dry weather.

The ordinary centipedes also contribute to the knowledge. An approaching rain makes them worry about eggs, and they scurry about in swarms carrying their eggs to safe places, to avoid rainwater damage.

The House swift bird ( Ababeel, Babeela ) is a small, smoky-black bird with white throat.This bird frequents old forts, deserted houses and ruined buildings. When it is observed flying really high in the sky , it means rains are expected.

Animals too, do their bit

Camels in the zoo part of the park may teach the kids something. Turns out that a swelling on the lower part of the camel's legs, indicates imminent rain. Scientifically, it has to do with the effects of atmospheric humidity on the camels legs. But think. The swelling could have been anywhere, and if it had been, say, on the head or hump, humans would not have noticed. So there is a divine plan in making us observe the leg swelling on the camel, for prediction of weather.....

And finally, for those who prefer to garden, do observe your grass, and tomato and french bean plants. The pesky spiders know more about rain than we do. If you see spiderwebs on tomato plants, french beans and assorted grasses, then rest assured that rain will not be happening any time soon. ....

Notwithstanding all these wonderful green signs that teach us weather prediction, we humans, since ages, have only performed invasive rituals to propitiate rain. Praying for rain is probably the only non-invasive method.

In Punjab, a feast (varisty Puja) is organised by villagers collectively during summers, in the event of a long dry spell . All cry for rain and the children sing a song. The essence of the song is that "when children cry, God listens".

In China, huge dragons which were part of religious festivals were torn up when rains failed. Europe, did not lag behind. In many European countries, failing rains triggered an uprooting of saintly statues which were then rooted upside down in soil. As a means of protesting a drought , Italians even chained statues and clipped their wings to show their anger.

When Cajoling a God was unsuccessful, we unimaginative humans target the neighbors.

(Actually, come to think of it, this happens so often in Mumbai, anyway. Verbal and non verbal abuse amongst the neighbors, whether in housing,trains,buses, or just huge crowds. Shouldn't be difficult to figure out the rain. Maybe that's why we get maximum rain and flooding when the garbage clogs the storm drains.)

In Bengal when the end of the drought was not in sight, desperate people threw filth on the homes of their neighbors who in turn abused them; this was considered auspicious (!) for rainfall.

In societies where women are treated second class, like in the Shahpur district of Pakistan, people would throw a pot of filth (ouch!), on the threshold of a notorious old shrew of the area during a drought. This, not surprisingly, resulted in a fluent stream of foul language, which supposedly accelerated the onset of rain. What happens if there is no notorious shrew ? Is a badmouthing mafia don OK as a target for throwing pots of filth ? Are there any limits to foul language ?

Very very interesting. This connection between foul language , abuse and rain. Almost like creating a "dirt" situation of a certain magnitude, and then pleading with the rains to come and complete a comprehensive clean heavy duty wash.

All the more reason for us to consider the Green prediction methods of those lower on the Darwinian scale.
And all the more reason for us to teach our children to observe the sign
s for rain, in nature, rather than teach them the violent methods propagated by those who refuse to learn....


  1. "saang saang bhola naath paoos padel ka?" hey jaasti reliable hoil

  2. I have my own rain predictor. It is my joints. When they ache I know rain can't be far behind.

    I have to laugh when it is pouring rain and the weather(wo)man on TV says there is a 90% chance of rain. I guess they don't have any windows in TV stations. ;-)

  3. Very very intersting. Men seem to have lost sensitivity to weather changes.

    I saw Indian Mynah and sparrows here in Durban! Indian Mynah are seen in Fiji too. May be, the ancesters took them there as mobile Met Office!


  4. I live in Texas and we have frequent droughts. I grew up in one and have been very grateful for any clouds or rain we get, even if it is too much. It gets very hot here, too and the cooling rains are something to look forward to.

    One of our "predictors" is the rings around the moon. One ring and it will rain in one day.
    Another is if the Texas sage is blooming it will rain. I'm not sure this is totally 100% accurate after many years of checking everyone's Texas sage plants and mine, too.

    I'm sorry, but I find it shocking you don't have radar that works yet. On my cable there are three stations dedicated to weather only.
    I have a weather radio, and a scanner so I can listen to the storm chasers. Our weather is pretty dull right now, but when I got up there were storms north of was a surprise to the weather guys. So, you all are not alone in that department. It is cloudy outside now, which helps so much with the heat.

    We have such an interest in weather because we have tornadoes in the area where we live. They can be very devastating.

  5. Oh yes...if the moon is a crescent and on its back, then it is "holding the water" and it will not rain.

    Birds sitting on a electric or telephone line mean it will rain. Probably something to do with the barometric pressure.

    Oh yes...there is one about 'Til the cows come home. That has to do with the cows coming to the barn and if they come early then it will rain.

    Fun subject you wrote about.

  6. wow! Those are extremely interesting indicators! Much more exciting to look for those than watch the old guy droning on on the weather after the news!!

  7. We should send the entire met dept for a course in bird watching or house a zoo in the met dept premises!!! kidding !!!!

    I loved this post it was so informative. I did not know half the things you mentioned yeah but noticed that before rains the birds tend to go back home.

    People are always abusing (specially with elections we should have floods) each other so much that by now we should all be flooded but guess it has to be accompanied with filth and I guess filthy language does not fit into the category!!!

    May be all met dept peope should sing raag malhar like Tansen or dance like rambha urvashi to appease Indra!!!

  8. We have a Doppler and it's great.... at predicting what the weather is like - right at that moment. I might as well stick my head out the window and get the same information! Although the Doppler is good for letting you know where a tornado is and within a few minutes of where it is going, at least to give you a chance to find safety.

    I agree with the green thoughts. Animals are a much better at knowing when something is up or "in the air." I remember after Katrina, there were no birds. It was deathly quiet. The only thing moving ~ bees and wasps and they were furious ~ stinging anything to be found moving.

  9. LOL !

    There was even a met office prediction that asked 'outsiders' to stay out as there was a combination of rain and high tide.

    I know the rains didnt keep their date (the weather office was right) but wonder what the tides did !

    You suggestion is immaculate. You dont need 1600 crores and 5 years of delay with acres of concrete jutting into sky.

    You may even call it 'Rajiv Bal Sharad whoever' groves !! it would set at rest all controversy.

    and we would go to work on Tuesday. Properly prepared !!


  10. Here's some animal wisdom :o)

  11. Vinita,Darlene,Vivek,Amber Star,Roshni,Ranu,Aleta,Kavi,Helene H

    They said yesterday that rain had stalled for a while, and I woke up today to a fairly heavy downpour.

    I rest my case.:-)