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April 24, 2005
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April 24, 2005

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Home > 2005 Issues > April 24, 05

Rain forecasting by Panchangs more accurate than by IMD
Watch for these almanacs for the New Year 2062 Vikram era
By Arabinda Ghose

SCIENCE and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal on February 21, 2005 made a pretty disparaging remark not only about the political class which includes himself but also the India Meteorological Department (IMD) of the Government of India which is under his direct control.

“Like politicians, the Meteorological Department has very little credibility,” he said, while inaugurating a five-day meeting of the joint panel of World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific region (ESCAP) on tropical cyclones. “The IMD needs to take steps to ensure the credibility of its forecasts,” he added.

The common man in India would agree with Shri Sibal's observation about both politicians and the India Meteorological Department. Leaving aside politics and politicians, we may recall that in the recent past, forecasts about the south-west monsoon made by IMD in 2003 and 2004 had gone awry. We are aware of the disastrous drought of 2002 and the 2004 drought which was less severe. It has pushed down the estimate for gross domestic product (GDP) with respect to agriculture for the current financial year to just 1.10 per cent from a high of 9.30 per cent in 2003-2004.

Is there an alternative to monsoon forecasts which would be more accurate so that farmers can plan their agricultural programmes on that basis? Well, three scientists from Varanasi, one of them an astrology teacher, have claimed that rainfall forecasts made by four of the oldest panchangs (almanacs) published from Varanasi have been largely accurate, the percentage of accuracy being in the neighbourhood of 80 as compared to the generally accepted percentage of 60 in case of those made by IMD.

Three scientists from Varanasi, one of them an astrology teacher, have claimed that rainfall forecasts made by four of the oldest panchangs (almanacs) published from Varanasi have been largely accurate, the percentage of accuracy being in the neighbourhood of 80 as compared to the generally accepted percentage of 60 in case of those made by IMD.

This claim has been made in an article in the magazine Asian Agri-History, published from Secunderabad by the Asian Agri-History Foundation, of which the Managing Editor is Dr Y.L. Nene. Dr Nene retired a few years ago from the Patancheru (Hyderabad)-based International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and has devoted all his time and resources to bring out this magazine which highlights the achievements of Indians and other Asians in the past in many aspects of agriculture. The article appeared in the January-March 2002 issue of the magazine.

The three scientists in question are: Shri S.K. Mishra, Shri V.K. Dubey, and Shri R.C. Pandey. The first is with the Department of Extension Education, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Banaras Hindu University; the second is with the Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack and the third is with the Department of Jyotish, Faculty of Sanskrit Learning and Theology, Banaras Hindu University.

The four panchangs mentioned are the Drik-Siddhartha, Shri Ganesh, Hrishikesh and Vishwa, all published from Varanasi and data about the forecasts have been collected for full half a century—from 1946 to 1995. These, based on astro-meteorological theories—have been compared with the actual meteorological data of the IMD on a day-to-day basis.

They claim in an article that “the percentage of yearly overall pooled correct predictions (partically correct plus fully-correct predictions) made during the 50-year period in these four panchangs were 79-58 per cent, 82-89 per cent, 97.76 per cent and 77.74 per cent respectively and which were far better as compared to the average long-range rainfall prediction (abut 60 per cent) of IMD.”

The India Meteorological Department, a wing of the Ministry of Science and Technology, had in 1988 devised a statistical model based on 16 parameters under the leadership of Dr Vasant Gowarikar, Secretary, Government of India. This model proved to be generally right in its predictions for long-range monsoon forecasts, except in 2002. Thereupon, Dr Kelkar. devised an eight-parameter power regression model. The forecast made on this proved remarkably accurate in 2003.

However, its forecast for 2004 monsoon went off the mark, which probably made the new Minister of Science and Technology, Kapil Sibal make that remark on February 21. One must add here that the Gowarikar model forecasts had proved right for 13 years in a row till 2001.

The three scientists are of the opinion that meteorology may be a new science for the West. However, in India, “this science has been in existence from a very early date as astrological forecasting of weather phenomena. A systematic study of this science was made by our ancient astrologers and astronomers. The rules are simple and dispense with costly apparatus. Observations coupled with experience extending over centuries enabled the great sages of India to delve deep into the subject of astrology and discover the laws governing weather, rainfall, storms, etc., which are of utmost importance to mankind.”

They say that the ancient/indigenous methods of weather forecasts may be broadly classified into two categories; Observational Methods—atmospheric changes, bio-indicators, chemical changes, physical changes, cloud formsationsand other sky features; and 2. Theoretical Methods—astrological factors or planetary factors like computation of planetary positions and conjunction of planets and stars, etc., study of solar ingress and particular dates of months; study of nakshatra chakras, study of nadi chakras, study of Dashtapa Siddhanta.”

The writers claimed that predictions for monsoon rainfall in these four panchangs too were quite accurate, with the percentages ranging between 83 and 91.

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