Indian scientists evolve avalanche prediction system

By Richa Sharma, IANS,

New Delhi : In a boon for armed forces personnel deployed in high-altitude areas, defence scientists have developed a system for forecasting avalanches with maximum accuracy to enable corrective measures to be taken.

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The system, developed by researchers of the Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE), can predict any given day as an “avalanche day” or “non-avalanche day”.

The system, tested on a 60-km stretch of a new road being developed between Chowkibal and Tangdhar, some 200 km from Srinagar, an area prone to avalanches, has proved to be 80 percent accurate, its developers say.

“The data-based system will assist the defence forces in troop deployment by providing them details about inclement weather in advance,” scientists Dan Singh and Ashwagosha Ganju, who developed the system, wrote in the research journal Current Science.

“It is better than most of the classical and statistical methods now being used for forecasting avalanches,” they added.

SASE, an arm of the premier Defence Research and Developemnt Organisation (DRDO), is based at Manali in Himachal Pradesh. The avalanche study was conducted at its R&D centre at Chandigarh.

“The system is based on the input conditions and automatically generates the rule set for each new situation encountered at the input stage,” the scientists wrote.

In simple terms, the system works on the “if-then” concept and takes into account factors like temperature, snowfall, depth of snow on the ground and the average wind speed, and weather conditions to predict when and where an avalanche is likely to occur.

This data is gathered from sensors placed at various points along the road that transmit the information to a central control room.

Currently, avalanche prediction is being done by the statistical method that relies on strict mathematical procedure.

But, as the scientists said, “to completely transfer the forecaster’s logic in the statistical model is a difficult and challenging task”.

The system has been offered to the Indian Army, the Border Roads Organisation and the Border Security Force for being tested in field conditions.

“Based on their feedback, we will make whatever modifications that might be required,” a DRDO official said.

SASE was set up in 1969 to combat the hazards of heavy snowfall and avalanches, not only to help the armed forces survive in harsh climatic conditions but also to accelerate the pace of socio-economic development in otherwise inaccessible snowbound hill regions.