Before fixing a day for marriage or going for long travel, Sonam Lotus – the weather man – comes to mind first owing to the weather disturbances in the Himalayan region.
Lotus, who is Director Meteorological (MeT) Centre Srinagar, receives lot of phone calls on daily basis for his weather predictions, and he politely answers everyone.
“In summers, I get lot of calls from people about weather forecast in Kashmir, so that they can plan their marriage functions accordingly,” he said.
Similarly, in winter months, people call him and accordingly plan their journeys as highways connecting Kashmir with the rest of world often close due to bad weather.
Lotus told Rising Kashmir that many times he was invited in marriage ceremonies after his accurate weather predictions.
“With love, people invite me in their marriage functions. I love it,” he said.
Lotus said marriage day is important for all of us. People are curious about the weather conditions. Some people once asked me for monthly forecast which is impossible and difficult. There can be a 60-70 % rough idea but not exact, he said.
During winters, Lotus becomes a household name in Kashmir. From Hamaams to markets and from public places to kitchens, he becomes the talk of town.
Often seen sitting in front of his computer at his office in Rambagh in Srinagar, Lotus could be seen advising people over the phone many times.
When the weather is bad, he is seen at the office by 5.30 am and when it rains or snows heavily, he even forgets dinner and weekly off. His commitment has earned him confidence.
Born and brought up in a farmer family in Sharah—a village in Leh which is 60 km away from the district headquarters, Lotus was hardworking person since childhood.
“Where I am today is because of my parents who worked hard for my studies. After all hard work, confidence and belief are keys to success,” he said.
Until 6th standard, he studied in a government school in his vicinity and after that he passed 10th from High School and then joined GHSS Leh to complete 12th non-medical.
After that Lotus perused his bachelors’ degree from Government Gandhi Memorial (GGM) Science College with Physics, Mathematics, and Geology. Then joined the University of Jammu, to complete Masters and M.Phil in Physics.
“During my studies, I saw an advertisement inviting applications for various Meteorology Department posts at all-India level. I applied for the same. I got selected through UPSC for the post in 2005. I was sure to get posted as a scientist in the department,” he said.
After selection, Lotus went through one-year training through Central Training Institute (CTI) of Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) Pune, a recognized training center of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
In 2006, he was first posted at Mountain Metrological Centre (MMC) at old Airport in Srinagar. “We used to call it Snow and Avalanche Studies (SASE), a project of DRDO operating in this region,” he said.
In 2008, Lotus was transferred and posted as Director MeT centre Srinagar where he has become the longest-serving director of the department.
The MeT Srinagar centre is one of the best MeT centres in the country. Notably, in 2017, the centre received the best IMD centre award in India.
Lotus is known for his accuracy during weather predictions in the valley.
“The advent of science and technology and increase in power of computing helps in accuracy. Forecasting needs a lot of weather information besides other parameters from different parts of the country,” he said.
Lotus said technology should be used in a positive way to benefit the people.
“I always keep the public sensibility in mind. You have to be responsible while issuing forecasts. People trust us and we should have some accuracy,” he said.
For Lotus, the weather of Jammu and Kashmir is complex but he has been analyzing it over the years and continues to do so.
“Although weather models are there but, it needs a lot of courage to face the challenge,” he said.
He believes that weather data shouldn’t have any doubt rather should be authentic. “Now, IMD has strengthened observational network in Valley especially after 2008,” he said.
Lotus said forecast in Kashmir needs courage. He said earlier it was restricted weather advisories. “But when I joined, my slogan was that weather updates should reach every individual as it affects everyone’s life,” he said.
“Being a farmer’s son, I can feel the pain of farmers who work in orchards. Our timely weather advisory can save their harvest and rest is up to Almighty,” he said.
“Weather affects everyone. There is no difference between rich and poor. It does not recognize physical boundaries and touches the lives of everyone,” he said.
During the Amarnath Yatra, the MeT puts multiple weather stations up to the holy cave in Sonmarg to provide pilgrims with accurate weather updates.
“From VIPs to normal functions in Valley, I am often called for weather updates. It is the trust that people have in me,” he said.
“Making predictions in summer are challenging due to instability in the weather system while in winters forecast is easier and accurate,” he said.
Accurate predictions have also helped to boost the tourism industry. People come and visit here only after knowing the weather updates and they plan trips accordingly.
“Weather has become an important segment of our lives. Although there are many sources, it is important to check the forecast from an authentic and credible source,” he said.
“Forecasting accurate weather is part of my job and I am not doing any favor to people. I am a public servant and it is my duty,” he said.
For him, the accurate forecast does not only come with accurate machines and technology but from accurate minds.
“It comes from men behind the machines, experience, knowledge and big strength of my forecast is my team members, who always support me,” he said.
In his office, Director MeT has also given strict instructions for attending phone calls from people, so that information can reach every person. On the other side, the MeT is also archiving the data on daily basis.
“Today, we have weather information of J&K cities for more than 100 years. Since 2010 all weather-related causalities are recorded. My entire team is working behind me and helping in making this center as one of the best centers in India,” he said.
Accurate weather is predicted after observing data of various parts. For J&K, they get data from 40-50 sources across the globe for which they have worked hard.
More recently, weather and climate have become one of the debated topics in the world. Even this year’s Nobel Prize was also given to a climate scientist.
“We interpret the output of weather models and I am trying do my work honesty and with dedication. People trust us and we also try to meet their expectations,” he said.
Lotus bagged Best Employee Award by Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) in New Delh for the year 2017-18 in recognition to his significant contribution in the field of climate science and systematic, precise weather warnings which are averting disaster and natural calamities in the region.
About family support, he said his parents acted as the backbone behind his success. “My wife is from Leh district and she is very caring and loving. They always cooperated and supported me,” he said.
In his message to youth who are interested in the Meteorological field, Lotus said there is no shortcut to success. They should work hard and study to achieve their feat in society. It is key to success and then opportunities will knock at your doors, he said.
“I always advise students who come to our MeT campus that they should work hard and serve their people. Encourage them for positivity, planning, smart strategy, and time priority which is very important,” Lotus added.
Lotus is a celebrated weatherman of Kashmir who has been instrumental in helping save many lives over the years.