26 October 2020 11:32 PM

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MRINAL PATHAK | 9 OCTOBER, 2020

A Kashmiri Teenager Whose Weather Forecasts are Followed by Thousands Everyday

‘People say, politics is not dirty there and the environment is conducive for studies’


Srinagar has long been famous for its beautiful weather. For Faizan Arif, who grew up standing in the balcony of his home situated in the lanes of Downtown, the natural phenomena of lightning and thunder inspired him to follow his passion. A science student who recently completed secondary school, Arif has spent the last few years of his life analaysing and forecasting the weather.

“I always enjoyed watching lightning in the sky, since I was very little. It always drove me to think, how do these natural phenomena occur? I started learning more and more about weather forecasting and meteorology, and once I got in 9th standard, I learnt about things such as western disturbances,” he explains.

In Class 11 Arif started going deeper into the subject. “I used data provided by the HU Weather forecasting agency and used to the follow weather through this and other apps or sites.” He started learning about various weather models such as ECMWF, GFS, ARPEGE, ACCESS, CMCGDPS, NEMF, UKMO and ICON, developed by scientists and used in various countries.

Two years ago, Arif created an Instagram page called Kashmir_weather, which has over 40,000 followers now. “I receive many messages on my Instagram handle. People compliment me by saying that they have more faith in my forecasts than Sonam Lotus (a leading weather forecasting agency),” he laughs.

He has started giving his forecasts to many leading news agencies such as Growing Kashmir and Voice Kashmir.

He analyses weather forecasting data using pre-existing models. “Mathematical equations are solved using these systems and they further help in calculating the rest of the data. We can make graphics using these data. The process has become very easy because of scientific developments in this direction” he explains.

He says the GFS model, which is widely used by many countries including the Indian Meteorological Department, has proven inaccurate many times in the past. “GFS is an American based system which is free of cost to use, so many people use it, but other models are not free of cost.”

To increase accuracy, Arif calculates the average of data provided by various weather agencies regarding changes in weather. With his experience of 3 to 4 years he knows which models give more accurate data. “I generate weather forecasts using this method,” he says confidently.

Fame soon followed his hard work. “My friends and family have started calling me Faizan Lotus,” says a cheerful Arif. The world of wind speed, moisture and other aspects of weather has grown on his mind in the last few years. Apart from diving deep into the ocean of weather forecasting, he strongly believes India must develop a weather forecasting model that matches global standards.

“I have recently passed 12th class. I wanted to pursue a bachelors in meteorology, but in such a big country of 1.3 billion people, there is not even a single college which offers this course, because people do not have interest in it. I am willing to do Physics honours now, and after that, a masters in meteorology. I can’t do it from the beginning,” he rues.

How does his family feel about a choice that very few people in this country make? “My parents have always supported me a lot,” says Arif. His father, a pharmacist by profession, always wanted him to become an engineer, but seeing his son’s passion he let him follow his dream.

“I will not stop you,” Arif says his father told him.

“All of my relatives support me,” he adds. Many of his friends from tuitions have also expressed an interest in meteorology. “My friends regret not knowing the fact that meteorology can be pursued as a profession,” he says, nervous and excited in equal measure.

He says the 2014 floods in Kashmir could have been prevented if the preparations were better founded on an accurate forecast. “Our authorities have learnt a lot from that experience,” he believes, adding that a decent investment in this direction by the government would save time and prevent major disasters.

For the time being, however, his passion is carrying him through. “I do this out of passion and I will be happy if my forecast reaches to the maximum people. I do not do this for money.”

His message to other young people? Broaden your horizons. “I would like to tell everyone that there are many other streams like meteorology, beyond engineering and medical.”

To help those dreams come true, he urges the government to open colleges where students can learn meteorology.

As of now, Arif is not willing to go abroad to study, even as a postgraduate. He has been advised to pursue his career in Vishakhapatnam. “People say, politics is not dirty there and the environment is conducive for studies,” he says hopefully.

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