Pradeep John: Weather Can Never Be Predicted Accurately

When there is a thunderous storm or a turbulent cyclone, Mother Nature's fury can be intimidating. But, can a person look forward to such terrifying events? Meet Pradeep John, who does!

By Team ParentCircle

Pradeep John: Weather Can Never Be Predicted Accurately

Image courtesy: Pradeep John Facebook page

There’s more to Pradeep John than meets the eye. Growing up with the desire to chase storms, explore cyclones and analyse the vagaries of nature, is not everyone’s cup of tea. However, for this popular weather blogger and unofficial forecaster, it is more than an occupation, it is his passion!

It all began because a little boy grew up fascinated, not by toys or cars, but by storms and raging winds. That early obsession made him who he is today — a renowned and celebrated weather forecaster with his own devoted fan following! Here, Tamil Nadu’s popular weatherman narrates his journey including, his experience of being caught in 'The eye of the storm’, literally! Read on…

How it all started

Before I begin, I would like to go back in time, to the year 1994 — when my love affair with the weather began. And, it all started with a cyclone. I was studying in class VII when Chennai was struck by a fierce cyclone. The incessant rains coupled with howling winds, made for a tremendously awesome spectacle.

Around midnight on October 31 that year, the ‘Eye of the storm’ passed over the city. That night is still etched in my memory. There was a power cut and it was pitch dark all around, as there were no inverters or back-up power generators then. I was unable to sleep because of the heavy rains accompanied by the frenzy of the wind and falling trees. Whenever I heard a particularly loud crash, I would open the window and peek out. That one incident left a deep impression on me and, in a way,kick-started my love for various aspects of the weather.

Another incident that I still remember is the Chennai rains of June 1996, when it poured continuously for three days. Due to this, schools were shut for almost two weeks.

Chennai is ideal to study weather changes

Due to its coastal location, Chennai experiences several weather changes. It gets thunder storms from May or June till September. Unlike the US, Tamil Nadu does not witness tornadoes but instead, experience prolonged thunderstorms for almost five to six months.

In Chennai, the sea breeze will move inland in the evening hours during warm days and interact with clouds forming near the hills adjacent of Nagari. When these clouds react with the sea breeze, a magical formation occurs, which I never tire of seeing again and again.

Witnessed Cyclone Varda with my daughter

In Chennai, Cyclone Varda was the most intense tropical cyclone of the 2016 North Indian Ocean cyclone season. It is one cyclone that I relate most to, both in terms of its ferocity and the impact it had on me. The Army was on standby for relief operations and 15 teams of the National Disaster Response Force were deployed in various coastal regions.

However, what made this one extra memorable was the fact I had my daughter with me to experience Mother Nature at her furious best. The cyclone crossed Chennai around noon. I remember the gusts of wind were so fierce that my daughter and I were literally swaying on our feet! Amazingly, she seemed to enjoy the experience and that thrilled me.

Always prioritise safety during such events

Even though people gather to witness cyclones and other extreme natural phenomena, with some even enjoying storms, I am very cautious when it comes to safety measures. I would advise others to do the same. Look in every direction as you never know when flying debris could strike and injure you. Also, if you are on the beach or near the sea, do not stand too close to the shore as the waves could lift you off your feet and you could get washed away.

My 'unforgettable' moment during the 2015 Chennai floods

I have witnessed several cyclones, storms and floods over the years. At such times, there is heavy destruction, loss and damage. But there was one incident during the Chennai floods, that was quite unforgettable.

This is what happened. My colleagues and I were travelling back home from office in my car. Due to the floods, the journey to my home that was 20km away was taking more time than usual. We tried several routes. All around us, there were broken down cars with people stuck inside waiting for the rains to stop, the water to recede. Despite the grim situation, I found the drive home in knee-deep water to be unforgettable. 

Don't blame global warming for everything

Earlier this month, I heard about the extreme weather in Munnar (a hill station in Kerala), when temperatures of minus 4 degrees was recorded. People have been saying that this is due to global warming. Even the Kerala floods of 2018 was attributed to global warming.

I disagree. It is wrong to make such statements, based on one incident. In fact, similar incidents have happened before. In fact, in 1924, there were floods in Kerala. Rather than blaming global warming for any such incident, people should look into factors such as urbanisation, deforestation and unplanned construction.

Studies over a prolonged period must be done before coming to any conclusion.

Modern weather apps are hardly accurate

Today there are a lot of weather apps flooding the market. Personally, for me, they are not that accurate and should not be used as the only option to predict the weather. There are a lot of factors to be considered before using weather apps. First, it depends on the model of the app, whether it is an Indian, Asian, American or, a European model, as there are numerical predictions incorporated depending on the region. This may vary from region to region resulting in inaccurate predictions.

Weather apps may sometimes work only a few times a day. So, in the morning, an app could display weather information that may not be the actual scenario. Consistency is not a feature of weather apps. There may also be inaccurate results. In fact, the accuracy is only about 20 to 25 per cent and depends mostly on the upgrades, for each app.

Intuition and weather forecasting

In the field of weather forecasting, intuition plays an important part. However, this instinct, comes with time and experience. However, you can never be too sure. We cannot completely master nature or, become capable of accurately measuring the amount of rain that might fall at one point. Sometimes, there might be a weather forecast of 50mm rain but eventually, there might just be 30mm of rain. Over time, experience may play a key role in helping predict accurate results, as many factors need to be taken into account.

As far as the summer of 2019 is concerned, I suggest we wait till the end March or, the beginning of April, before predicting anything.

Finally, I would like to sign off by saying that we should work with dedication and hard work in our chosen field of work but family is also important. We should treat our children with love and care, so they grow up to be confident and secure. Quality time is important, and I firmly believe that the time we spend with our children will turn into cherished memories. Always support and encourage your children and never force them to do anything.

Pradeep John is a weatherman based in Tamil Nadu.

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