iRead, iLearn, iWrite. Hence, iBlog.

For Indian Military, Nuclear & Space matters, visit:

Friday, November 15, 2013

ISRO's Oceansat-2 Helped Predict Cyclone Haiyan

Utilising data collected from 1 of the satellite's payloads to determine the intensity of the calamity, providing advance warning.

Meteorologists have described Cyclone Haiyan as one of the severest manifestation of this destructive natural phenomena. Striking the archipelago nation of Philippines last weekend, where it is referred to as Typhoon Yolanda, it left in its wake a massive trail of death & devastation. To help the nation get up on its feet, India has dispatched its recently inducted C-130J transporter, filled with essential materials, with the promise of more.


India's role in facilitating relief & rescue efforts, in fact, commenced even before Haiyan hit the country. Seen above is the pictorial representation of the data acquired from ISRO's Oceansat-2 satellite on November 6, two days before landfall. This colour-coded illustration indicates the wind speeds generated by the Typhoon & arrows denote the direction of its motion. Processing the data, Scientists at NASA's JPL arrived at a speed of around 206 kmph [~57.2 m/s]. It was one among multiple earth observation satellites that confirmed the severity of the phenomena.


The particular payload in focus is a Ku-band Pencil Beam Radar Scatterometer. It is one of the 3 payloads the Oceansat-2 carries, the other two being,

  • an Ocean Colour Monitor [OCM]
  • an Italian Radio Occultation Sounder for Atmospheric Studies [ROSA]

Launched aboard PSLV's C-14 mission, on the 23rd of September in 2009, the Launch Vehicle also placed 6 other satellites in orbit for international customers, the 2nd highest number of satellites it has launched in 1 mission, up till now. News reports in July 2012 revealed how this ISRO-built satellite helped Scientists discover that Greenland was experiencing significant loss in its snow cover, at an accelerated rate.


Interestingly, the Scatterometer evaluated Haiyan, not by studying the cyclone itself, but by the effect it had on its surroundings. As understood from the name, it is a Radar, [mounted on the satellite's Bus - an I-1000 (I-1K) platform]. The electromagnetic waves emitted by it [details above] hits the water surface & is reflected back on to the payload's receiver. Therefore, if the oceans are turbulent, caused by Cyclonic disturbance, it receives the reflected waves accordingly. Using this co-relation, that is codified in a highly computation-intensive, geo-specific numerical model, Meteorologists were able to determine the strength of the Typhoon. ISRO offers access to some of the processed data from Oceansat-2 via a dedicated, be it archaic-looking, portal. Having witnessed the proof of its utility in Ocean studies & monitoring, Australia is reported to have approached ISRO for access to the satellite's data for their own use. In fact, it was a similar data sharing agreement between India & America, signed in 2012, that made possible for NASA to use Oceansat-2 for studying Yolanda.

Emergencies like these validate ISRO's mandate of leveraging the use of Space Technology in the alleviation of socio-economic situations, that is accomplished at a fraction of the cost. Gestation period of missions undertaken, for its benefits to be reflected on the common masses, would vary. Therefore, it would be erroneous to suggest that, just because the benefits of a mission do not become apparent immediately, it is an unnecessary burden on the State's exchequer. Foresight & farsightedness demands that one undertake activities of this nature.


Also Read: Pan-African e-Network - Indian Space & Information Technology [I.T]-enabled initiative for Africa