As institutions find new use cases for artificial intelligence (AI), the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has confirmed its interest in deploying the technology to predict weather changes.

The IMD says it is exploring integrating AI-based climate models to update weather forecasting in the country. In particular, the proposed forecasting feature will be specifically tailored for severe weather conditions like floods and droughts in an attempt to reduce the incidents of errors.

Following the inability of existing systems to accurately predict torrential rains, landslides, and flash floods in India’s Himalayas, key stakeholders have amplified the call for an introduction to AI-based systems. Currently, the IMD’s forecasting system relies on supercomputers and complex mathematical models to make its weather predictions, but critics are having a field day poking holes in the system.

IMD’s Head of Climate Research Hosalikar told Reuters that an AI-based weather prediction system would be more accurate, reduce errors, and save running costs for the agency.

“An AI model doesn’t require the high cost involved in running a supercomputer – you can even run it out of a good quality desktop,” said Saurabh Rathore, a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology.

Hosalikar pointed out that integrating AI into existing meteorological processes will be seamless, given the IMD’s previous experiments with the technology. For starters, the IMD has previously leaned on AI to issue public advisories on potential heatwaves and outbreaks of tropical diseases with varying degrees of success.

Building on the AI-based public advisory system, the IMD says it will increase the number of weather observatories across India, focused on a village-to-village basis. Apart from establishing workshops with local stakeholders, the bulk of the IMD’s plans revolve around increasing its data collection capabilities.

“Without having high-resolution data in space and time, no AI model for location-specific magnification of existing model forecasts is feasible,” remarked Parthasarathi Mukhopadhyay, an official with the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.

India dances with AI

AI adoption in India is bounding at a searing pace led by government agencies and private-led endeavors. In August, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) proposed AI-powered conversational instant payments while urging commercial banks nationwide to turn to emerging technologies for sustainable growth.

The country has since launched an AI course to deepen the talent pool, with regulators angling to introduce new regulations to prevent AI misuse by bad actors. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has amplified concerns about the risks posed by the unfettered use of AI to India’s economy, pushing for stiffer guard rails.

“There is a challenge arising because of artificial intelligence and deepfake,” Modi said. “A big section of our country has no parallel option for verification. People often end up believing in deepfakes, and this will go in the direction of a big challenge.”

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