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ARTICLE: Addressing Holistically Various Aspects Relating to Earth Processes – ESSO
Saturday, 26 January 2013 05:23

Addressing Holistically Various Aspects  Relating to Earth Processes – ESSO

The Earth System Science Organization (ESSO) operates as an executive arm of the Ministry of Earth Sciences for it policies and programmes. It has four major branches of earth sciences - Ocean Science & Technology Services; Atmospheric and Climate Science Services;  Geoscience and Technology; and Polar Science andCryosphere. The sole purpose of the endeavor was to address holistically various aspects relating to earth processes for understanding the variability of earth system and for improving forecast of the weather, climate and hazards.

The ESSO primarily  aimed to develop  and improve capability to a wide range of forecasts, on weather, climate and hazard related phenomena for societal, economic and environmental benefits including addressing aspects relating to climate change science, climate services and integrated Himalayan meteorology. Over 25 sectors of both public and private directly and indirectly, are the stakeholders of the various services being rendered by the ministry, in addition to general public.   This ESSO is also responsible for development of technology towards the exploration and exploitation of marine resources in a sustainable way for the socio-economic benefit of the society by taking into account the global developments in the field of marine environment.

Weather and Climate Forecasts

Weather and climate forecasts, including those of extreme events, are becoming increasingly important for the economic and societal benefits. Earth System Science Organization provides weather and climate forecasts on various spatial and time scales (nowcasting to climate) to different users in the country. This include nowcasting (up to six hours) for aviation and disaster management, short to medium range forecasts ( up to 7 days) for agricultural, water resources, insurance, public safety, tourism, water resources and power management, disaster management etc, seasonal forecasts for economic planning, agricultural, water resources and power management, and climate change scenarios for  long-term planning and mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Operational short to medium range forecasts are now prepared using the state -of-the-art numerical weather prediction models at a resolution of 22 km from 100 km resolution. This is a major improvement.  This improvement in capability was possible due to the upgradation of High Performance Computing (HPC) facility at the ESSO institutions.

The quantitative forecasts of weather elements and forecast lead time by one day have improved over for short to medium range weather forecasdts. . This improvement is mainly attributed to use of high resolution numerical models with improved physics, and assimilation of non-conventional data from Doppler weather radars, satellite radiance and many satellite derived data products like winds, temperature and water vapour profiles. Verification of weather forecasts suggests that the skill in short range weather forecast in the country is at par with the skill of other developed countries like USA and UK. Skill of track prediction of tropical cyclones also has improved   and is now comparable with the skill of other major prediction centres. The average forecasts errors in track of tropical cyclones in 2012 were 110, 185 and 240 km respectively for 24, 48 and 72 hour forecasts. In 2003, these errors were 150, 260 and 385 km respectively.

Seasonal forecasts are traditionally prepared using statistical models, but with limited success of about 60%. In spite of better understanding of monsoon variability and consistent efforts to improve statistical models, the skill of monsoon seasonal forecast has not improved over the years. To meet the user demands of more accurate seasonal forecasts at much smaller spatial scale,   the use of coupled atmosphere-ocean models, has been initiated.

With the objective to implement a state-of-the-art dynamical forecasting system for short range to seasonal forecasts, ESSO recently launched the Monsoon Mission with a budget provision of Rs 400.0 crores. Importantly, it is aimed at providing a seamless approach to predicting monsoon variations for lead times extending from short range to seasonal. The mission has initiated national and international collaboration in order to improve the models specifically for monsoon forecasting and especially targeting the key systematic errors which are limiting the predictive capability of dynamical models. A high priority has been accorded to the work on extended range forecasting, which has great potential for the agricultural sector. With the Monsoon Mission, a marked improvement in the accuracy of weather and climate forecasts is expected in next 5 years. Improvement of model physics like convection, clouds, land surface process, ocean coupling and development of advanced data assimilation methods are some of priority research areas under the Monsoon Mission.

Prediction of extreme weather events like intense precipitation, strong winds,  etc is also an important research priority. ESSO is making efforts to establish a framework for nowcasting (up to six hours in advance) based on numerical models and satellite and Doppler weather radar data. With the numerical models, an advance prediction (2-3 days in advance) of extreme weather events may be possible, at least in a probabilistic sense. For this, use of high resolution models with advanced data assimilation is required but with many ensembles to take care of the uncertainties in initial conditions. Such an ensemble forecasting system is already implemented and is now being evaluated.

ESSO is at a threshold for a quantum jump in achieving significant improvement in weather and climate forecasts and thus helping the development of the nation. To meet these challenges, adequate investment will be made in human resource development, high performance computing and improving the observational network.

Ocean Mineral Resources

Manganese nodules are potential ocean mineral resources found on the seabed at the depth of 4000 to 6000 m. These manganese nodules are small, dark-brown colored and lightly flattened, 5 to 10 cm in diameter, They  host strategic minerals such as Copper, Nickel and Cobalt as well as Molybdenum, Vanadium, Titanium, Platinum, Rhodium, etc. in small quantities.  India has been conducting extensive survey and research including development of technology for possible harnessing the resources.  Recognizing India’s persistent endeavors, the pioneer investor status has been acceded primarily by allotment of a site in the Central Indian Ocean Basin by the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations for harnessing the polymetallic nodules.  The Polymetallic Nodules programme consists of four components, viz. Survey and Exploration, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Study, Technology Development for Mining and Technology Development for Extractive Metallurgy.

As a part of survey activity, a detailed multibeam bathymetry survey has been completed for 75,000 sq. km. area to map the seabed topography. A comprehensive resource analysis has been carried out. The estimated potential is found to be  about 380 Million Metric Tonnes (MMT). The important metal resources estimated as: Manganese – 92.59 MMT, Nickel – 4.70 MMT, Copper – 4.29 MMT and Cobalt – 0.55 MMT.  Besides,  an area of ~7860 km2has been identified as First Generation Mine Site (FGM) which has the best abundance and grade.

The important prerequisites for mining these resources in the identified area are development of technology and conducting environmental impact assessment.   Under technology development for harnessing the resources, a set of deep sea mining equipments have been developed indigenously. These include soil-tester, Remotely Operable Submersible (ROSUB) and crusher.   Remotely Operable Submersible (ROSUB) and soil tester were tested successfully at depths beyond 5000 m  respectively. The crusher was tested at 500 m depth.

It is necessary to study impact of mining on the deep sea environment. A 3-dimentional model for sediment dispersion has been developed. The Model is capable of predicting suspended and bed load sediment movement for any geographical locations including deep sea sediment sludge disposal into sea water, dispersion of plume and settling.

Towards extraction of minerals from the nodules, the necessary metallurgical technology has been developed. The most promising process route was tested on the semi-continuous demonstration pilot plant. The pilot plant has exceeded the overall metal extraction efficiency higher than the achieved efficiency at laboratory scale.