Friday, August 26, 2005

Monsoon forecasts

An update to the controversy about DST's decision to ban monsoon forecasts by organizations other than IMD, the 'official' organization.

Professors Sulochana Gadgil and J. Srinivasan, both from the Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at IISc, have a guest editorial (PDF) [thanks to reader Guru for the link] about this controversy in a recent issue of the journal Current Science. Towards the end of their balanced editorial, they make this valid point:

... the meteorological predictions are more akin to results of research on impact of various factors (including drugs) on health, than those in mathematics and particle physics in which the preprint culture has thrived.

After discussing the issue of monsoon forecasts from many different points of view, they conclude with this sensible recommendation:

In order to ensure accountability and transparency, it is necessary to stipulate that forecasts from models can be made public, if and only if, information about the performance of the model and the objectively assessed error levels is included. After all, when a company makes a public offering, it is obliged to state the potential risks. Once the responsibility of including such information is accepted, freedom to make the predictions public, irrespective of whether they are generated by an agency of the government or private enterprise, should not be curtailed.