News Feed 28-July ‘2016

Supercomputer to Forecast Monsoon with Dynamical Model

  • According to recent reports, by the end of next year India’s yearly summer monsoon forecast may be made by a supercomputer running a dynamical model.
  • Madhavan Rajeevan, The Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), stated that the dynamical model, being tested at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, (IITM) Pune for over a decade was “ready for operational purposes next year.” A dynamical monsoon model works by simulating the weather on powerful computers and extrapolating it over particular timeframes.
  • Although this technique is normally effective in forecasting weather over a few days, using it to predict the annual monsoon over 3 or 4 months has proved to be hard.
  • While such models have been used for research purposes for long, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has never integrated them into its operational forecast.
  • The IMD relies on a band model, a statistical technique that uses an average of six meteorological values correlated to the monsoon such as sea surface temperatures in the Pacific, and North Atlantic sea level pressure. These values are derived from century-old meteorological data linked to the historical routine of the monsoon.
  • This customary approach in recent years have failed to predict monsoon failures — in 2002 and 2004 for instance — leading to calls by meteorologists for a new, modern forecasting system.
  • Though the dynamical model, called the Coupled Forecast System version 2, has so far achieved only 60 per cent accuracy in forecasting the monsoon. A confidence boost came when the dynamical model and the ensemble technique correctly signaled a drought in 2015.
  • While the IMD has put out the dynamical model’s forecast along with the traditional one, it plans to give importance to the dynamical model signals a new approach. This is a predecessor to giving monsoon predictions over India’s 36 sub-divisions rather than only four broad geographic regions that include them. A dynamical approach can also be more easily tuned to account for rapidly changing global weather conditions.

 

In Uttarakhand’s Chamoli, land and air incursions by Chinese troops

  • Land and air incursions by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have been reported in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand on July 22 and July 25 respectively.
  • Sources at the home ministry revealed that when some civil administration officials visited the Bara Hoti area, they found four-five armed PLA soldiers standing there with a vehicle. The soldiers raised their regular slogan of “This is our land, go back”, following which the Indian officials retreated.
  • The troops had entered around 200 metres into the demilitarized zone of Bara Hoti through the Tun Jun La pass. The Chinese troops withdrew the same day, sources said.
  • There was an airspace violation on July 25 by Chinese helicopters that entered the border in the same area. This was the second such infringement in the past two years. In 2014 too, PLA choppers had transgressed into the area.
  • ITBP DG Krishna Chaudhary submitted a report based on the incident to Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju at the North Block. He also met Secretary (Border Management) Susheel Kumar to apprise him of the recent developments.
  • Bara Hoti is one of three border posts in the ‘middle sector’ comprising Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand where ITBP personnel are not allowed to take their weapons as per the unilateral decision of the then government in June 2000.
  • In 1958, both countries listed Bara Hoti, an 80-square km sloping pasture, as a disputed area where neither side would send their troops. People from both sides, however, go to the area to graze their sheep.
  • However, after the 1962 Sino-Indian war, ITBP personnel used to patrol the area with weapons in a non-combative manner (in which the barrel of the gun is positioned downward).
  • During prolonged negotiations on resolving the border disagreement, the Indian side had unilaterally agreed in June 2000 that ITBP troops would not be carrying arms to three posts, which included Bara Hoti besides Kauril and Shipki in Himachal Pradesh.

 

India inks $1-bn deal with Boeing to buy 4 more P-8I aircraft for Navy

  • India has signed a deal worth over $1 billion with American defence and aerospace major Boeing for procuring four additional Poseidon-8I long-range maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft.
  • US has emerged as the chief supplier of military hardware to India and with the agreement; the total value of defence deals signed with the US in the last decade comes to approximately $15 billion.
  • According to defence sources, the pact is a follow-on order to the eight P-81 planes worth $2.1 billion bought by India in a direct deal with Boeing in 2009.
  • The contract was signed during the ongoing visit of US Under Secretary for Defence on Acquisition Frank Kendall and is seen as a sign of growing Indo-US defence ties, defence officials said.
  • India had previously signed a $3 billion contract with the US through Foreign Military Sales route for 22 Apache and 15 Chinook helicopters. India is also working on a deal to get 145 pieces of M777 light-weight howitzers from the US, the sources said.
  • The acquirement of additional ‘P-8I’ will be a shot in the arm for the Indian Navy as the country has been building up its naval surveillance capabilities in recent times.
  • The aircraft is armed with lethal Harpoon missiles, light-weight torpedoes and rockets among others, the Navy is extensively using the P-8I to keep a strict patrol on the Indian Ocean, which has seen numerous Chinese submarine forays, including the docking of a nuclear submarine in Sri Lanka.
  • The Navy will also be able to drop and monitor sonobuoys being used in the exploration for the missing AN32 aircraft of the Indian Air Force.
  • Incidentally, India is P-8I’s first international customer. It was also Boeing’s first military sale to India. The P-8I fleet is based at the Naval Air Station at Rajali in Tamil Nadu. The long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft has an operational speed of 450 miles per hour and a range of 4,500 nautical miles.

 

Pay Re. 1, get insurance cover for train travel

  • In a recent report by a senior IRCTC official, now train passengers booking their tickets online through the IRCTC website will be able to opt for travel insurance cover from September for a premium of just one rupee. The plan offers travelers or their families’ compensation of up to Rs. 10 lakh in the event of death or permanent total disability, Rs. 7.5 lakh for permanent partial disability, up to Rs. 2 lakh for hospitalization expenses.
  • The new facility will be available on a trial basis for all passengers of Railways who book the e-ticket, excluding suburban trains, through its website, irrespective of the class of the ticket.
  • The plan is being implemented by IRCTC in partnership with ICICI Lombard General Insurance, Royal Sundaram and Shriram General. An overall of 19 companies participated in the bidding process out of which these three were selected.
  • The three companies selected will get the insurance policy on a alternation basis from an automated system. IRCTC has engaged the providers for a period of one year, with the condition of extending the contract on a performance basis.
  • Train accident and untoward incident cases will be as per definition under Sections 123 read with Sections 124 and 124A of the Railways Act, 1989.The insurance cover is consistent for all classes and the choice available through a checkbox at the time of e-ticket booking. The premium amount will be automatically added to the ticket fare if the passenger opts for insurance. After the ticket booking and payment of premium, a message shall be displayed to complete the nomination details, which are necessary to resolve the claims on timely basis.
  • Users wanting coverage for children below five years of age will be required to furnish details of the child at the time of booking and accordingly travel insurance premium will be added to the overall amount payable.

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