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India is planning to establish a centre for climate change research to provide data for modelling and monitoring climate change in the country.

The news was announced at a meeting of the Indian Academy of Sciences in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday (2 November).

The centre will be based at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune and run by India's Ministry of Earth Sciences. The plans are currently awaiting approval by the cabinet.

The centre will network with other national and international scientific institutes and universities that measure greenhouse gases and aerosols and monitor glaciers, temperature change and rainfall patterns, said P. S. Goel, secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

Goel told the meeting that India needs an entirely new set of satellites — especially in low earth orbit (around 500 kilometres above the earth) — to provide information for climate change modelling.

"To understand climate change fully and predict changes, we need a lot more space data and a lot more satellites," he added. 

Currently, India's weather data comes from its Indian National Satellite INSAT spacecraft operating in a geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometres above the earth, while OCEANSAT, operating in a polar orbit 800 kilometres above the earth, provides ocean data.

But to model climate change over a particular region, scientists need temperature and water vapour profiles from various heights in the atmosphere; information on the profile, distribution and movement of clouds; and measurements of aerosol particles every 25 kilometres. This high-resolution data cannot be provided by current Indian satellites.

Climate change prediction models also need three-dimensional measurements of the atmosphere and oceans. Cyclones are predicted to increase along the Indian coast due to global warming, and satellites need to capture information about a cyclone every half an hour to give adequate advance warning.

Space-based observation systems are vital for such studies, as they cover a wide area and repeatedly revisit different sites, says Goel.

India has plans for a range of new satellites to contribute to climate change research, including the Indian National Satellite, INSAT-3D, and the Megha Tropiques satellite, part of an Indo-French collaboration.