Researchers from British universities of East Anglia and Reading — and from four Indian institutions: the Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (CAOS) Bangalore, the Indian National Centre for Climate Information Services (INCOIS) Hyderabad , the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF) NOIDA NCR and the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) Chennai, will embark on June 24 from Chennai on the Indian research vessel Oceanographic Research Vessel ORV Sindhu Sadhana. Simultaneously other researchers from India and the University of Reading will fly out in a British research aircraft to make observations in the atmosphere.
The scientists will combine oceanic and atmospheric measurements to monitor weather systems as they are generated, in an Rs 80 crore (Pounds sterling 8 million) project, one of the biggest scientific studies of the Indian monsoon.
Explains Professor P N Vinayachandran, of the Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore who will lead the field experiment on board ORV Sindhu Sadhana:
“The main objective of this project is to study the contrasting coupled ocean atmosphere system in the southern Bay of Bengal. The western part of the southern Bay of Bengal falls under the rain-shadow region whereas the easter part receives large amount rainfall. In two previous expedition carried out my Indian during 2009 and 2012, the western part was investigated in detail. Scientific objectives of BoBBLE have been drawn from the Continental Tropical Convergence Zone (CTCZ) programme conducted during 2009 and 2012 with support from Department of Science and Technology and Ministry of Environment and Forests . The focus of this year’s experiment will be on the eastern part of the Bay of Bengal. Earlier, India had conducted Bay Of Bengal Monsoon Experiment (BOBMEX) in the northern Bay of Bengal during 1999 and Arabian Sea Monsoon Experiment (ARMEX) in 2002 to understand the role of these respective regions on monsoon rainfall over India.”
“The complete suite physical, chemical and biological parameters will be measured during BoBBLE from east of Sri Lanka into the eastern Bay of Bengal. The data set will be used to understand features of the ocean and the overlying atmosphere lying under contrasting monsoonal regions, marked by a rain shadow zone to the east of Sri Lanka in the west and rainy regions in the eastern Bay of Bengal. The results will also be used to enhance the performance of ocean models in India.”
Says University of East Anglia’s School of Environmental Sciences’ lead researcher Prof Adrian Matthews: “The Indian monsoon is notoriously hard to predict. It is a very complicated weather system and the processes are not understood or recorded in science. We are aiming for a better understanding of the actual physical processes. What we have now are imperfect models for predicting monsoon rainfall when it hits land, so this will create better forecasts.”
He adds “Ultimately, the goal is to improve the prediction of monsoon rainfall over India. This will be enormously beneficial for India’s subsistence farmers, who need to know when and how much rain will fall. This would then enable them to change the timing of how they plant their crops…. Nobody has ever made observations on this scale during the monsoon season itself, so this is a truly ground-breaking project.”
The project is called the Bay of Bengal Boundary Layer Experiment (BoBBLE). In addition to the two universities, the UK participants include the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) in Southampton. The team will spend a month at sea – with data from the 250-mile stretch of international water beamed back to using mobile phone signals daily. Scientists from the University of East Anglia (UEA) will release underwater robots to monitor how ocean conditions influence monsoon rainfall. Researchers will use this data to create computer models of the ocean to determine how it affects weather systems and rainfall over India.
The project is funded the Indian Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), the (UK) Natural Environment Research Council, the Newton Fund, and the UK’s Met Office.