The inspiring journey of Chennai’s climate bloggers

Waterlogging in the Korattur subway due to heavy rain on October 29th morning. Image: Avinash D.

While the city narrowly escaped during the landing of Cyclone Nivar, K Srikanth, who runs the Chennai Rains blog, spent about eight hours following the cyclone’s movement, understanding its nature, and updating its followers.

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“In general, the time that is spent tracking the weather depends on necessity. During Cyclone Nivar, I spent about three hours in the morning sharing daily updates and five hours doing follow-up posts and analyzing the weather, ”says Srikanth, who has blogged for a decade.

Srikanth is just one of many thriving, passionate weather bloggers in Chennai, closely followed by anyone looking to keep up to date on weather conditions in the city. From college students to alumni to IT staff, many people in Chennai seem seriously interested in understanding weather dynamics.

Since the 2015 floods, many people have shown an interest in interpreting the weather thanks to popular blog sites like Tamilnadu Weatherman and Chennai Rains. The city’s weather blogging community has grown remarkably well.

The evolution of weather blogging

In the first days of the trend, aspiring weather bloggers visited the Kea Weather Blog to learn and write. As social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter began to grow, bloggers switched to these sites to post regular updates and reach a wider audience. The weather blogging community has developed tremendously since then.

What could be the reason so many people care about the weather? “Chennai is a city with a lack of water, but when the monsoons hit the northeast it is either intense or leaves dry spells. So many bloggers showed interest and started following the weather as a hobby, ”says S Bhaskaran, a weather blogger.

A decade ago, when the weather blogging community was still in its infancy, they relied on the weather pillars published in the newspapers and then followed other notable weather experts like Ashok Patel to understand the dynamics. But a lot has happened in this area since then.

Weather tracking devices

While it is not mandatory to purchase a weather tracking device, Bhaskaran suggests a personal weather station, rain gauge, and anemometer (optional) for weather tracking. The personal station tracks precipitation data, wind data and temperature data, the rain gauge measures temperature and precipitation. Government agencies use anemometers to measure wind energy. Such devices can be bought online from websites like Amazon or Flipkart.

Five years ago, Srikanth installed a personal weather station in his home. The device is connected to his mobile phone via an application. “Lots of weather bloggers across town use the device. The data gathered from their locations gives us an overview of the rainfall pattern in the city and is important in understanding these patterns. The device also shows the difference in rainfall patterns in coastal areas and western suburbs during the northeast monsoons when we analyze the areal data, ”he adds.

Details are important

Often the warnings from the Regional Meteorological Center (RMC) are brief and do not go into the dynamics of the weather. On the other hand, these weather bloggers provide detailed explanations behind the phenomenon.

During the recent cyclone Burevi on December 4th, Pradeep John, popularly known as the Tamilnadu Weatherman, wrote: “Burevi is no longer a cyclone; it has weakened as a deep depression and lies in the Gulf of Mannar. It will stay there for a while longer, spinning bands in the Delta and North Tamil Nadu regions all day. Massive rains are expected in Tamil Nadu today. “

He stressed the need to make detailed statements for the benefit of citizens. “We weather bloggers gained knowledge by constantly tracking the weather across India to understand how the monsoons occur and how dynamic it is. It is important that everyone tries to know the climatology of their city, ”he adds.

From the archives: See Pradeep John’s interview here

Followers find the updates easy to interpret and important for planning their schedules, especially when traveling. “The updates are often bilingual and explain the dynamics of the weather in simple words. The bloggers also share a lot of resources for knowing how to weather forecast. I travel a lot for official work on the road and in the air, and since these bloggers are very accurate, regular and punctual, I can answer a call if the weather is not travel-friendly, ”says R Sundaram, a Velachery businessman.

SM Kirthiga, a Chennai-based PhD student, believes weather bloggers go to great lengths to collect data with self-installed weather recorders, log the data, analyze historical data, and find hidden patterns. “The northeast monsoon (NEM) had not received the necessary media attention because it is the retreating monsoon, which covers smaller regions and a shorter duration compared to the Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM). The depth of research and data on food supplements shared by these bloggers is commendable, and many critical drivers of the monsoons have been identified and attributed, ”adds Kirthiga, who specializes in weather forecasting.

Resources for beginners

For beginners, Bhaskar lists the following blogs to keep track of the weather pattern:

Data bottleneck

Many citizens today rely more on these weather blogs for forecasting and planning than on the daily weather report published by IMD. However, the lack of open weather data is a key aspect that the weather blogging community feels disappointed with.

“The European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) is the largest weather model in the world. For many decades the model was commercialized and recently opened for the benefit of stakeholders. That way, the world is moving towards weather data and it’s disappointing to see the IMD pushing the data behind a paywall, ”adds Srikanth.

Chennai bloggers also point out the lack of enough weather stations due to which the ground scenario is often not known. Currently the city has around 12 weather stations, while cities like Hyderabad and Bengaluru have hundreds of weather stations that help cities know the real scenario.

It is, of course, a matter of accountability. “The bloggers can increase credibility if they share the references well formatted as articles / newsletters. This will also inspire more graduates to consider weather forecasting as a research area, ”says Kirthiga.

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