When we were growing up there was a popular Aesop fable that was taught to us. The story is called The Boy who cried Wolf. The boy, guarding the village sheep, developed a bad habit of crying “Wolf! Wolf!” to tease the villagers. Nearby villagers who came to his rescue found that the alarms were false and that they had wasted their time. When the boy was actually confronted by a wolf, the villagers did not believe his cries for help and the wolf ate the sheep.
The moral of the story was : Even when liars tell the truth, they are never believed. The liar will lie once, twice, and then perish when he tells the truth.
Let us now shift our focus to the modern day version of this boy. This modern day version is also known as the Weather Bureau or the Met Department. They seem to be in the news for all the wrong reasons. And their weather forecasting in the last month has been so abysmal that their odds of getting a prediction right are as long as that of heavy snowfall in Mumbai.
Weather prediction is a complex task no doubt. A person no less than Albert Einstein quoted that “One need only think of the weather, in which case the prediction even for a few days ahead is impossible”. Given this, it comes as no surprise to us that Weather websites and channels over the years have got it all wrong year after year. But our Met Department needs to take the cake in getting it wrong 100%. It must be the only organization that has a 100% success rate in giving the wrong prediction, if their predictions since May of this year, are any indication. The only success that they have had is in their consistent failure to predict the weather pattern.
Let us look at some examples. In the last 4-6 weeks, they have given several warnings like:
- Heavy to Very Heavy Showers expected in the next 48 hours. In fact this is their favorite one-liner when it starts raining.
- There is no likelihood of rains in the next 4-5 days
- Rains will be here in 5 days
and many more. On every single occasion, they have been 100% wrong. In fact there is a joke doing the rounds that if you want accurate weather, all you need to do is read up the Met Departments prediction and then simply reverse it. And I tell you, that is indeed true. If you do not think so, try it the next time around.
The monsoon is crucial to the Indian economy and in that sense the role of the Met Department is even more crucial. It is all the more important because apart from the effect of a truant rainfall on our agriculture, the large amount of rains at times are also causing havoc in major metropolitan cities in India. In the last several years, a regular phenomenon seen is that of cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, etc going under for a couple of days due to heavy rainfall. We simply cannot afford that and we normally tend to blame the Municipal Corporation (in our case the BMC) for its lack of preparedness. I tell you they are not to blame. If you recollect the story that I told you at the beginning of this post about the boy crying “Wolf! Wolf!”, the BMC represents the village people. On several occasions (I would put that almost all occasions) the Met Department made the BMC go into a hyper mode of preparedness by predicting heavy to very heavy showers and then there was brilliant sunshine instead of the deluge. The BMC in all probability now ignores any warning given by the Met Department because they simply don’t believe them anymore. I suspect they simply dismiss any dire weather predictions as nothing but another prank being played on them by the Weather Department. I sympathize with the BMC on the prank continually played on them.
In the past, the Met Department has given various excuses like not having the latest computers and infrastructure necessary to make accurate weather predictions. Fair enough. A Tsunami warning system at the cost of several hundred crores was to be put in place. No one knows where that project is at this moment. Maybe it died of natural causes at the proposal stage itself or maybe after the budget was allocated. Several crores of tax payer money has gone into upgrading infrastructure of the Met Department itself. A case symptomatic of our system is that of the Doppler Radar installation. A while back, the Met Department on being criticized had told us “Give us the Doppler Radar and in return we will give you accurate weather forecast.” The Government thought it was worth a try and got them one. However it is still not installed, including a June 30 deadline set by the Maharashtra CM. Several excuses have been given for not installing it. Some of them were and I quote from the news article:
- “A Few officials from the Chinese Company have to arrive here to install it. We do not have details on when that is likely to happen”
- “We need to install on a top of a tower, so we need to carry out civic work”
- “If the weather is windy, we cannot install it”
The Met Department gets away giving excuses like this. However at the end of the day someone has to take the responsibility and pay the cost. While I am not sure if anyone will take responsibility, it has certainly come at a cost to the Met Department. It has come at the cost of their credibility and they are certainly the modern day version of the boy who cried “Wolf!”. They are certainly a laughing stock and need to be done away with it. Their predictions are not looked at seriously and any credibility that they had, has been lost a long time back. It would bring the tax payer a lot of mental relief, should this department be done away with and divert the money that is currently being wasted on them, towards the BMC to undertake some serious civic work for the city.
Most of us even today simply look out of our window and stare into the skies to gauge what the weather currently is like. The only equipment we have is the Window. I think that is what the Met Department does too. It simply looks out of its window and summarizes something that it calls a weather prediction. Like anything else that goes out of the window, their predictions too have always gone for a toss.