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The hottest man in town

He's seen it all, from the scorching Delhi summer to the Antarctic winter. No wonder A.L. Koppar, Director of the Met Department, is amused when Bangaloreans crib about the weather



A.L. Koopar: 'People who have not seen climatic hardships are sensitive to small fluctuations. — Photo: K. Gopinathan.

MAN FOR all seasons. You couldn't find a man who fits the bill more perfectly than A.L. Koppar, the Director of the Meteorological Department in Bangalore. Scorching heat? Sudden showers? Cyclonic weather? And there is a media scramble to dial Dr. Koppar for an explanation. City reporters have been doing that for the last 10 years. "There are times when I get a call as late as 11.30 in the night. But that's a professional hazard one gets used to," laughs the amiable Dharwad-born weatherman.

Dr. Koppar's association with weather began after he completed his Ph.D. in soil sciences. A good deal of his fieldwork involved agro meteorology too. But it was after he joined the Indian Meteorological Department as a training officer that he went through a year of intensive training in meteorology. After stints in Delhi and Pune, Dr. Koppar got promoted as Grade I officer and landed in Bangalore in 1994.

And he loves it out here. "Bangalore's moderate temperature is best for human living," he says. He knows best, having seen the most extreme of weather conditions — the burning 44 degrees of Delhi summer and the minus 50 degrees of Antarctica. Yes, he has been all the way to Antarctica as part of three wintering expeditions, once as team leader. He describes his stay in the frozen continent as both an "opportunity and a challenge", despite science having "conquered Antarctica" to a large extent. He remembers a disastrous accidental fire during the 1991-93 expedition. Most of the soap and oil supplies were destroyed, which meant that the team had to do without these essential commodities till the next ship arrived.

If fire and ice seem like two things that just don't gel, he surprises you with: "Do you know that Antarctica is the driest region next only to Sahara?" Everything is brittle and dry and the constantly blowing winds make everything in the "continent of uncertainties" particularly fire-prone. Loneliness and the extreme weather affect a man's mood too, making him particularly susceptible to depressions. "Depends on the attitude really; it could also make one philosophical and tough."

No wonder he is amused by Bangaloreans' unending complaints about their city's weather. "People who have not seen climatic hardships are sensitive to small fluctuations," he remarks, and continues on a more philosophical note. "Their tolerance limits and buffer capacity also tend to be narrow. Weather certainly influences human moods and attitudes." One couldn't ask for a better weather than Bangalore really, with moderate fluctuations between seasons and an extended rainy season. All weathers have their shortcomings, though. It is probably this pleasantness that makes most Bangaloreans settle down comfily at home, rather than venture out and explore the world.


But what is it that gives Bangalore such a dream weather? Primarily its geographic location, the fact that it is equidistant from both the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. It ensures adequate moisture in the air. The altitude, 920 metres above sea level, makes it so "hill station-like". The tree cover, of course, also has its "localised effect".

But what about this refrain about Bangalore summers getting hotter by the year? This one rates high on Dr. Koppar's most-frequently asked questions list, and he says all over again that weather in Bangalore is "still steady". There are no yearly fluctuations like people imagine. "Public memory is short, and they hardly remember what it was like last year. Also, people start complaining about weather in the beginning of the season, before the first showers arrive."

Thanks to Bangalore's proximity to sea and the thermostat effect, it rains as soon as the temperature reaches 36 or 37 degrees. The average surface temperature of the earth itself though, has been seeing a steady upswing over the decades because of global warming. Bangalore is definitely affected by it like any other city in the world, Dr. Koppar adds. Hence, it might rain when the mercury hits the 37-degree mark today, and not 35 degrees like it did a few decades ago.

But does the fluctuating weather of Bangalore — now sunshine and now thundering rains — make the weatherman's job that much tougher? That's yet another professional hazard, perhaps a shade more severe in a place like Bangalore. The "local weather", for the Met Department, applies to a 50-km diameter. And people in Jayamahal would, of course, crib when sudden rains prove the morning paper's "clear skies" forecast wrong, even if it is on target for those in Jayanagar. This tends to happen more often in summer, thanks to convectional clouds (cumulo-nimbus clouds, in a weatherman's jargon). These vertical cloud formations tend to result in very localised rainfall. As opposed to this, cloud formation during the monsoon is in layers and spreads across a larger area, due to constant flow of moisture-laden winds.

Technicalities apart, what would be Dr. Koppar's own favourite weather, something he would like on a relaxed holiday? A typical December day in Bangalore, when the weather is moderate and the sky blue — an excellent time to be out. And on such a day, you would probably spot him in his garden, for the weatherman, who has green fingers, loves nothing more than watching a tender sapling grow into a sturdy tree.

BAGESHREE S.

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