KARACHI: On the roof of his 120 square meter house in Karachi’s Azizabad district and with a mobile phone in hand, Syed Owais Haider works through the drizzle under thick, dark clouds to collect data from its automated weather station.
The integrated system of components used to measure, record and often transmit meteorological parameters, such as temperature, wind speed and direction, provide it with data to make short-term forecasts amid the continuing wave of rainstorms. monsoon in Karachi.
It is one of 11 weather stations he and his friends operate in Karachi and 15 across the country for daily weather updates, data and forecasts under Pak Weather Network – a private source of forecasting and weather broadcast more than ten years old.
Mr. Haider’s network is one of the few private sources of weather forecasting and broadcasting in the country, creating waves these days amid the growing challenges of climate change and rapidly changing weather patterns.
As citizens distribute updates themselves, official urges caution to avoid unnecessary panic
“It was in 2010 that we took this initiative,” he says. “It all came from curiosity and interest in meteorology.”
He says his team monitors upper air maps and current conditions, such as temperature, pressure, humidity and wind speed, and tracks international weather models like the European Center for Weather Forecasts. Medium Term (ECMWF), Icosahedral Nonhydrostatic (ICON) and Global Forecast. System (GFS) for making local weather forecasts.
Private weather forecasting groups have grown in popularity in recent years in an ever-changing climate across the country, resulting in more frequent heat waves, cold winters and heavy rains.
Also fueling their rise is the impression that the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) operates with the same traditional conservative approach to weather forecasting and predicting future conditions.
However, those who closely monitor and work with them believe that these groups are still evolving and that their lack of capacity sometimes creates panic.
“I learned a lot from these private groups,” says Uneeba Waqar, a broadcast journalist who actually introduced these private weather station operators to the mainstream media through her reporting.
“Until a few years ago, information regarding rapidly changing weather conditions, developing situations and the reasons for different trends was hard to come by. We could only report the official numbers,” she said.
However, she still feels that the aggressive approach of private weather groups and sharing of premature developments sometimes creates uncertainty and panic, putting everyone’s reputation at risk.
Despite the hiccup, she thinks it’s a good and healthy trend, especially amid the growing challenge of climate change, and stresses the need for collaboration between these private groups and government institutions.
Jawad Memon, who has independently operated Weather Updates PK for 15 years and has nearly 300,000 followers on his Facebook page, agrees with the idea.
He believes that despite a lack of resources and capacity, things can improve significantly if support and collaboration come from the government level.
“I do all of this alone to keep people across Pakistan informed and updated,” he says. “From pattern analysis, to data collection and even videography, I have no other source. I do all this out of passion and enthusiasm.
“Uncooked Data Creates Panic”
Dr. Sardar Sarfaraz, chief meteorologist at the PMD, does not discourage these private groups either and finds it a good sign to see young people taking an interest in meteorology and making efforts on their own.
However, he calls for following established protocols and accuracy standards that he says are typically lacking at private weather stations. “Meteorology is a complete science and making forecasts is absolutely professional work,” he says.
As an example, he says, when “we at the PMD do forecasts, we even analyze data from countries in the region collected from them officially through certain state-level arrangements” .
Dr Sarfaraz also denies the impression that the PMD is holding the information or sharing it at a slow pace.
“The thing is, we’re tied to certain protocols and can only share data or information or make predictions when things are mature,” he says. “Unprepared data and immature information always do damage and create panic.”
Posted in Dawn, August 1, 2022