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[NEW DELHI] Early detection of a low pressure area in the Arabian Sea by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) helped activate mitigation mechanisms in India and Pakistan against Cyclone Nilofar that menaced coastal Pakistan and India’s Gujarat state late October, say meteorologists.
The IMD, in its role as Regional Specialised Meteorological Centre (RSMC) under the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), provides weather advisories to Pakistan and other members of the inter-governmental panel on tropical cyclones and provides training.
“As part of our responsibilities, we have, since 2005, been training 2—3 scientists each year from member countries on data interpretation and issuing bulletins,” Mrityunjay Mohapatra, chief cyclone forecaster at the IMD, tells SciDev.Net. Panel members include Bangladesh, the Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
Qamaruz Zaman Chaudhry, former director-general of the Pakistan Meteorology Department (PMD) and currently UNDP national expert on climate change, tells SciDev.Net that data is shared frequently with the IMD Cyclone Centre, New Delhi, which then provides early warning services to member countries.
With improved data sharing and capacity building efforts by IMD member countries are able to track cyclones accurately, predict their likely path and take timely decisions. Once basic information on a cyclone's location, size, movement and intensity is issued by the IMD, it become the basis for national advisories.
After a depression, detected by IMD on October 25, was declared a cyclone, bulletins were released every three hours, giving authorities a chance to take appropriate mitigation action. The three-hourly regional bulletins helped Pakistan and the adjoining Indian state of Gujarat to prepare for Cyclone Nilofar.
The PMD had predicted that under the influence of Cyclone Nilofar, widespread rain and thundershowers with isolated heavy and very heavy rainfall accompanied by strong gusty winds would sweep Lower Sindh, including Karachi, and the coastal areas of Balochistan province until October 31.  
Following inputs from IMD, Pakistani authorities revised their forecasts and assured citizens that conditions had improved enough for fishermen to venture into open seas from Sunday (November 2) onwards.
Chaudhary said Pakistan and India share meteorological observations through a dedicated telecommunication system network that is backed up by the Internet. He adds, however, that the cooperation could be improved further.
According to Mohapatra, improved regional data sharing is being considered. “We have already set up data receiving stations in countries like Sri Lanka and Nepal,” he says.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South Asia desk.