Accurate weather forecasts play a significant role in saving thousands of lives around the world. Weather, defined as the state of the atmosphere around us, is very dynamic. Hence, understanding weather is imperative to our survival and has given rise to a new branch of science called meteorology. Derived from the Greek word metrōos, the word meteorology translates to ‘the study of things in the air’.
In the Indian context, the understanding of weather has many imperatives. “For a country like India, which is primarily an agriculture-based economy, meteorology is very relevant. Monsoon rains that last for four months in a year, drive our agriculture, water requirements, and the ability to predict them becomes very critical,” says J Srinivasan, professor at the Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. In recognition of meteorology’s importance, the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organisation observes March 23 every year as World Meteorological Day. It has declared the theme for 2017 to be ‘Understanding Clouds’.
Tracing the origins
Considered the founder of meteorology, Greek philosopher Aristotle’s work Meteorology in 350 BC describes the water cycle responsible for bringing rain. But Indian knowledge about cloud formation and rain, and the seasonal cycles dates back to the Upanishads. Varhamihira’s classical work Brihatsamhita,…