What will the weather be like today?

A Water Level Station (Department of Hydro-Met Service)

Weather forecast is a piece of information that can be used by anyone, from a farmer to a tourist, or for construction projects, or to simply planning a picnic!

Have you ever wondered where and how the country gets its weather forecast? The Department of Hydro-Met Services (DHMS) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs is the one responsible for the daily task of monitoring the weather. DHMS is a technical organization coordinating all the 136 hydrological, meteorological and flood warning stations with some 140 people spread across the country.

DHMS is mandated to provide weather forecasting service through its meteorology division, while the hydrology division studies and provides information on all rivers across the country in addition to flood early warning services.

The department started anew after the separation of the erstwhile Department of Energy into three new departments a few months ago:  The Department of Hydro-Met Services, Renewable Energy and Hydropower and Power Systems.

Hydro-met information is necessary for flood forecasting and preparedness. It is required for designs of all major projects including hydropower dams and bridges. Historical information on hydrological and meteorological parameters is also used to study climate trends to determine climate change. Unfortunately, the data in Bhutan is not significant enough to verify any climate change trends due to which synthetic climatic models are used to generate future scenarios.

Some of the stations across the country are linked to the control room in Thimphu where real-time and near real-time water level, temperature and precipitation are communicated every half hourly with the help of a DANIDA funded project. There are other projects such as the Government of Finland funded ICIMOD-DHMS implemented HKH HYCOS Project in which six hydro-met stations from Bhutan will go online as part of a four country regional flood information exchange project to make information travel faster than flood water so that loss of lives and properties by flood can be reduced.

Most people still remember the 1994 disaster in Punakha-Wangdue valley due to the Glacier Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF), and know about the artificial lowering of the lake in Lunana. In addition to the lowering of the lake, DHMS is also setting up a GLOF early warning system in the Punakha-Wangdue basin with funding support from UNDP-GEF-PHPA and ACB. The system will observe water levels in the lakes and some stretch of the river, and inform the public in the area so that lives can be saved.

A data and research section conducts basic research on hydro-meteorology and has an archive of all hydro-met parameters in Bhutan since the 1990s such as river flow, precipitation, and temperature.  A snow and glaciers division is also planned to be set up for monitoring the country’s snow and glacier.

Weather forecast accuracy across the country can be tricky, as weather conditions change all the time. However, there are projects and programs in the department to improve the system for gauging the conditions for more accurate weather forecast.

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