For 20-year old Faizan Arif, life is all about weather forecasting. At a time when the children of his age would be ecstatic with animation characters and gaming, Faizan found his calling in an altogether different subject.
It all began at the age of 8 when he would wonder why and how it rains and snows. Pondering about weather phenomena paved the way for meteorology becoming a passion for Faizan.
From an urge to simply know the reason for rains to now following the Global Forecast System (GFS), a weather forecast model produced by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) in Maryland USA, Faizan has truly come a long way.
Faizan says UK-based European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), an independent intergovernmental organisation supported by most of the nations of Europe is another source he closely follows for his forecasting.
“It all started when I was just 8 years old. I used to just look outside the window and ask my parents why it rains or what is the reason for thunder or lightening,” says Faizan.
Faizan says his zest and a natural ability to be able to study weather data and related meteorological literature helped him gain fame. “Today I am followed by the likes of a former chief minister and who’s who of the society on social media and my forecasts are taken quite seriously”.
A resident of Nawa Kadal in downtown Srinagar and presently a first year student of BSc Physics Honours at Amity University in Lucknow, Faizan’s curiosity about weather has turned into a daily drill where he gives out weather forecasts for Jammu and Kashmir and nearby region.
“I first started with the weather app accuweather to find out on what basis it works. As years passed access to satellite based weather data on the internet became easier. Data is something important for forecasting” says Faizan.
Ask Faizan what was different about him and pat comes the reply: “I don’t just rely on the study of just 2 or 3 weather models but more than 15 weather models. One of these is a German weather model called Icosahedral Nonhydrostatic (ICON) which is quite helpful for predicting weather”.
Faizan who is popular on social media and runs a Twitter handle by the name of “Kashmir Weather” also has 55,000 followers on Instagram. Faizan says he tries not to get swayed by the fame but remains focussed by delving deep into the subject of meteorology.
“I regularly visit the India Meteorological Department office in Srinagar. I am pursuing research with the help of senior officials there on how El-Nino and La-Nina, the warm phase and cool phase of the Pacific ocean has an impact on weather in Jammu and Kashmir throughout the year” says Faizan.
Faizan says being careful and doubly sure about weather forecasts is important especially in a region such as Kashmir where extreme weather condition impacts day-to-day life to a great extent.
“People often raise questions on weather forecasting, whether it is against our religion. Even I feel ultimately it is in the hands of Almighty the way weather behaves but predictions are important in today’s day and age,” says Faizan. Despite occasional criticism from people for some inaccurate predictions, Faizan’s passion for meteorology has remained undeterred.
“If I have to make prediction for 8 or 10 days, I check and cross-check it. Weather is so important in Kashmir but what is lacking is an early-warning system. Had rainfall in 2014 been predicted properly and an impact based weather forecasting taken place, there would not have been so much of devastation” says Faizan.
Faizan, whose favourite subjects are Mathematics and Physics, has even done his homework on choosing meteorology as a career. He says once he completes his graduation, he is planning to pursue an MSc in Meteorology. However, learning on the job is a quality Faizan feels makes him stand apart.
He is presently learning how to visualise the past satellite-based weather data from European and American companies. “For instance many American companies provide satellite data of how much rainfall has occurred between 1950 to present. The data can even go back to as early as 1880. There are many computer languages such as Python which I am presently learning to be able to visualise the past satellite based weather data into 2D or 3D maps,” says Faizan.
While Faizan is mostly keen to follow the US or the UK-based weather models, he says Pune-based National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF), a research institute working under the aegis of Ministry of Earth Sciences created for numerical weather predictions is playing an important role in India’s meteorological studies.
Faizan who does not possess hi-tech equipment as the Meteorological Department has, says among his other achievements includes a long range weather forecast specific for Jammu and Kashmir, which IMD has not been preparing. The changes in weather phenomena due to global warming and climate change are something that keeps on intriguing Faizan.
“This April we saw so many frequent wet spells. I found a connection that there were frequent Western Disturbances due to the spill of cold air towards European countries and Mediterranean sea. This generated low pressures which moved towards the west causing the inclement weather here,” says Faizan.
Faizan says he is lucky since his parents, especially his father who is a pharmacist, encourages him to follow his passion. For this young weather enthusiast, meteorology is life and life is meteorology.
He signs off saying that he wants to make a difference to the society with his weather forecast and ensure that it benefits common people such as farmers, transporters and every single Kashmiri.