Research Highlight

How reliable is India's cyclone warning system?

doi:10.1038/nindia.2015.164 Published online 15 December 2015

Measuring performance of surface buoy instruments in the Bay of Bengal, researchers have comprehensively analysed their reliability in remote and hostile conditions. The analysis points out, for the first time, the difference between data published by sensor manufacturers based on theoretical models and actual data collected in offshore conditions.

Considering that India’s cyclone warning is dependent on data from these sensors, the researchers say there is need for independent performance monitoring of sensors to better manage offshore environmental instrument systems.

Data buoy instruments provide real time data about important physical parameters of the sea and the atmosphere. Globally, these instruments are used to predict complex weather systems like Dipole, El Niño, and La Niña.

India uses more than 600 moored surface buoys floating in the Bay of Bengal to track cyclones and provide early warnings. The researchers analysed performance of these sensors to show that the cyclone monitoring suites have a failure probability of 81.3% in one year. The mean time between failures was found to be a little more than six months.

Also, nearly half of the buoy failures were attributed to failure of meteorological sensors and about half to environmental factors like bio fouling, sloshing, birds, corrosion and salting. More than 40% of failures were due to human factors like sabotage and 4% due to issues in structural integrity and installation.


1. Venkatesan, T. et al. Reliability assessment and integrity management of data buoy instruments used for monitoring the Indian Seas. Appl. Ocean Res. 541-11 (2015) doi: 10.1016/j.apor.2015.10.004