These men don't need IMD to predict the weather

May 06, 2018, 12:00 IST | Anju Maskeri

Meet the team that doesn't rely on the weather bureau for updates on rain or shine

Ankur Puranik (second from right) and his team of ham radio operators want to create a grid of private mini-weather stations that will allow every area in the city to record weather. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Ankur Puranik (second from right) and his team of ham radio operators want to create a grid of private mini-weather stations that will allow every area in the city to record weather. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

At technocrat Ankur Puranik's office in Wadala East, he and his group of friends — all of whom happen to be ham/amateur radio operators — are discussing the muggy weather. Only here, it's not a conversation starter, but a subject that has kept them bonded for years. "The ham radio network works as a platform, where you meet like-minded people through a wireless radio transmitter and receiver. That's how we came together. Exchanging notes on weather conditions is one of the things that we do through it," says Puranik, chief technology officer at Om Energy Savers, a power-saving company. Now, the team is set to take their passion one step further.'

Last month, Puranik hit headlines for spearheading an initiative mooted by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, to create a grid of mini-weather stations by roping in other weather enthusiasts. The weather bureau currently receives updates only from Santacruz and Colaba. But, the new initiative will allow every area in the city to have its own weather station.Puranik's own mini-weather station, which he bought online for R8,000, has been mounted on a pole on his office terrace.

The compact assembly of sensors and instruments built into this station, measures atmospheric conditions and provides information on temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction, ultra violet rays and precipitation amounts. On the day of our meeting, he has dislodged it from the pole, and it now stands on a tripod, on an open ground for our perusal. "The reason you mount it on the roof or an open space is because it should not have obstructions," he says.

Sanket Deshpande, who bought a mini-weather station from the US, and installed it in his hometown Vangani, says it's a good investment that will benefit the people. "The more localised the update, the better it is," he says
Sanket Deshpande, who bought a mini-weather station from the US, and installed it in his hometown Vangani, says it's a good investment that will benefit the people. "The more localised the update, the better it is," he says

Since January, Puranik has been constantly posting data on a couple of weather websites for people to access. "I see it more as a social cause because weather is something that affects all of us," he says. Puranik wanted to buy the weather station before monsoon because that's when people require weather updates the most. "My interest was mainly in gauging wind direction and rainfall. And the accuracy of it is phenomenal," he says.

What makes it accessible to the common man is that unlike ham radio, where one needs to appear for a test organised by the Wireless Planning Coordination (WPC) wing of the government and get a clearance from the Intelligence Bureau, you don't require any licence to own it. The weather station dashboard is self-explanatory with information on the current temperature (indoor and outdoor), relative humidity, wind speed and direction, pressure and rainfall.

At the time of our visit, the UV Index reading shows 9, meaning very high risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. "In a country which is disaster prone, it helps to be on top of the weather," says Chembur resident Yogesh Gulati, who is the man that the BMC seeks out for weather updates and consultations in emergencies. He plans to install his mini-weather station at his farmhouse in Karjat. The team of weather enthusiasts also plans to use the popular single board computer, the Raspberry Pi, to display information collected on online weather domains like aprs.fi, without somebody having to monitor it.

HR executive Sanket Deshpande from Vangani purchased a mini-weather station long before the rest of his friends. "I wanted to assemble it on my own, but getting the parts in India is a problem," he says. He asked his sister to buy it from the US, during a visit. Deshpande considers the weather station an investment that will only benefit the people. "The more localised the update, the better it is," says Deshpande. Roshan Nazareth, another weather enthusiast, who has been in the field for the last 10 years, says the growing interest in investing in a weather station is a fairly new trend in India. "In fact, we hope to make this knowledge more accessible," he says.

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