Watch: To rain or not to rain, UAE's weathermen know

 

Watch: To rain or not to rain, UAEs weathermen know
Khalid Al Obiedli Head of forecast operation of National Center for Metreology and Seismology explain the opearation and weather update during interview at NCMS headquarters in Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi - In addition to the satellite images, forecasters also depend on data sent from 70 weather station radars placed all across the UAE.

By Anjana Sankar

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Published: Mon 6 Feb 2017, 6:27 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Feb 2017, 11:37 PM

Good or bad, weather matters. The vagaries of weather can affect people, businesses, industries and even animals.
Last weekend, when the UAE got battered by heavy rains, storm and even snow in some parts of the country, it caused traffic chaos, accidents and destruction.
But thanks to an accurate weather forecast, it is possible to get a wind of the erratic nature of weather well in advance. So who is predicting weather daily? How do they tell us if it is going to rain or shine?
Meet the UAE's weathermen at the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology, Abu Dhabi, the only governmental agency in the UAE that offers weather forecast.
"Our main target is to alert people and save lives and property," says Khaled Al Obeidly, Head of the Centre for Forecast Operation (CFO).
High-pressure job
An Emirati who graduated in Meteorology from the US, Al Obeidly says though everyone follows weather readings, not many people understand the job of forecasters.
"It is a high-pressure job. We are dealing with reams and reams of data, satellite images and figures. If our reading goes even slightly wrong or if we are delayed by a few minutes to issue a warning, that can cost lives," said Al Obeidly who joined NCMS in 2011.
And to do the crucial job, he and his team are armed with the best of technology in Meteorology and seismic monitoring and prediction. The weather prediction room or CFO resembles a highly charged TV newsroom with large screens perched on the wall constantly beaming satellite images, radar pictures and reports from various weather stations. Charts and maps are floating around the desks and forecasters are glued to their screens 24/7.
There are two types of forecast done by NCMS - general forecast and marine forecast.
Three assistant forecasters feed the main forecasters with data and analysis that are crucial for prediction.
In addition to the satellite images, forecasters also depend on data sent from 70 weather station radars placed all across the UAE.
"We use a software system called NWP (Numerical Weather Prediction) that feeds us with 12 different channels each for fog, humidity, dust, wind, clouds and rains. We can also measure the length, height and the width of the clouds to predict the amount of rain that can be expected," said Al Obeidli.

Each of these channels change every 15 minutes and forecasters have to keep updating their analysis every three hours.
According to him, it is important for forecasters to go back to the old weather forecast and understand the past patterns before predicting future.
"We may have technologies. But at the end of the day, it is human intelligence that makes a prediction accurate," he said.

The centre sends out daily forecasts to a vast base of clientele including government departments, private entities, airports and also to the World Metrological Organisation in Geneva.
In addition, daily and even hourly forecasts are updated on their social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. A YouTube page by NCMS also relays video updates on weather forecast.
UAE's challenging geography
What makes weather forecasting even challenging in the UAE is its unique geographical features.
"We are covered by ocean in the northern side, land in the South, desert in the West and mountains in the East. For instance, if we have North Westerly winds coming from the ocean, the forecast is it will cool down areas in and around Abu Dhabi. But when the same wind move eastwards crossing the mountains, it will heat up Fujairah and adjacent areas," explained the official.
Al Obeidy says a thorough knowledge of the UAE topography is a must for forecasters.
Ali Alshehhi, another Emirati forecaster agrees. "It is an advantage. Because I grew up in the UAE, I know the mountains and deserts well," said Alshehhi who has been working as a forecaster since 2007.
 

Weather jokes
Accuracy or rather inaccuracy of weather predictions has been the butt off jokes since decades. But technological advances have improved the image of forecasters in the society, said Jordanian Saleh Al Saleem, Assistant Forecaster.
"Things have changed and people are taking us more seriously now. The main reason is forecasts have become more accurate thanks to technological advances," said Saleh Al Saleem, Assistant Forecaster, who has been predicting weather since 1986.
So what does it take to be a weatherman?
Khaled Al Obeidly, Head of the Centre for Forecast Operation (CFO), says one needs to have a good grasp of science and math in school. "You need a degree in Meteorology and there are many universities including one in the UAE, that offers bachelors programmes," he said.
"More than the degree, you need the passion and dedication to observe nature and predict its eccentricities," he added.
- anjana@khaleejtimes.com
Functioning of the weather room
> The National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology, Abu Dhabi, deals with reams and reams of data, satellite images and figures
> The department is armed with the best technology in meteorology and seismic monitoring and prediction
> The weather prediction room resembles a highly charged TV newsroom
> Large screens constantly beaming satellite images, radar pictures and reports from various weather stations
> Charts and maps float around the desks and forecasters are glued to their screens 24/7.
> There are two types of forecasts - general forecast and marine forecast.
> Three assistant forecasters feed the main forecasters with data and analysis
> Forecasters also depend on data sent from 70 weather station radars placed all across the UAE.
> A software system called Numerical Weather Prediction feeds them with 12 different channels
> Each of these channels change every 15 minutes and forecasters keep updating analysis every three hours.
> Forecasters go back to the old weather forecast and understand the past patterns before predicting future.
> At the end of the day, it is human intelligence that makes a prediction accurate
- anjana@khaleejtimes.com




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