The Atmospheric Research Testbed in Central India (ART-CI)

GS Paper III

News Excerpt:

Recently, the first phase of India’s Atmospheric Research Testbed in Central India (ART-CI) was inaugurated at Silkheda in Sehore district, located about 50 km northwest of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh.

More About the News: 

  • The establishment of the Atmospheric Research Testbed (ART) in Central India is a significant step forward in the study of the Indian monsoon. 
  • It is established by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) at Silkheda, Bhopal
  • This testbed aims to enhance understanding of the processes governing monsoon convection and land-atmosphere interactions in the central region of India, particularly within the monsoon core zone (MCZ)
    • The MCZ is crucial for the regional climate system, especially during the southwest monsoon season from June to September.

About ART:

  • The ART is an open-field, focused observational and analytical research programme at Silkheda.
  • The facility aims to conduct ground-based observations of weather parameters like temperature, wind speeds, etc. and in-situ (on-site) observations of the transient synoptic systems – like low-pressure areas and depressions that form in the Bay of Bengal – during the southwest monsoon season from June to September.
  • Studying these systems and their associated cloud parameters will be used to generate high volumes of data over a long period. 
    • It can then be compared with the existing weather models so that improvements can be made to obtain accurate rainfall predictions.
  • The setup at ART will also be used for calibrating and validating various satellite-based observations, part of weather predictions and forecasting.
  • Under the first phase, remote sensing-based and in-situ measurements using 25 meteorological instruments have commenced. 
    • In the second phase, ART will deploy instruments such as a radar wind profiler and balloon-bound radiosonde, and soil moisture and temperature measuring equipment.
  • It represents a significant step forward in meteorological research aimed at improving the understanding and prediction of the Indian monsoon. 
    • By leveraging advanced instrumentation and strategic location, the ART has the potential to enhance agricultural planning, address knowledge gaps, and mitigate the impacts of climate change on monsoon dynamics.

Significance of Atmospheric Research Testbed:

  • At present, 45% of India’s labour force is employed in the agriculture sector. 
    • Much of Indian agriculture is rain-fed, as is cultivation along the Monsoon Core Zone (MCZ), which spans the central India region from Gujarat to West Bengal.
  • The southwest monsoon season accounts for 70 percent of the country’s annual average rainfall (880mm). 
    • Throughout India, the majority of Kharif cultivation is undertaken between July and August, which see an average monthly rainfall of 280.4mm and 254.9mm (1971–2020 average), respectively.
    • During this four-month-long season, several rain-bearing synoptic systems, namely the low pressures or depressions, develop in the Bay of Bengal. 
    • Inherently, these systems move westwards/northwestwards over to the Indian mainland and pass through the MCZ, causing bountiful rainfall.

Important to have data about monsoons over central India:

  • Studies have correlated the all-India rainfall performance to the rainfall received over the central India region, highlighting its importance.
  • The India Meteorological Department (IMD) issues rainfall forecasts for the country’s four homogeneous regions – north, west, east and south peninsular India. In addition, it issued a special rainfall forecast for the MCZ, which is considered India’s food bowl. 
  • Central India, therefore, acts as a natural laboratory for scientists and meteorologists to perform a hands-on study of the Indian monsoons. 
    • They can record data and make observations about the allied systems, clouds, and other associated physical and atmospheric parameters.
  • Additionally, climate change is driving erratic rainfall patterns in the tropical regions, like India. It has also strengthened the low-pressure systems, which are aided by high temperatures. This results in very heavy rainfall recorded along their trajectory during the monsoons.
    • Now, with ART, scientists will be able to generate and obtain long-term observations on cloud microphysics, precipitation, convection, and land-surface properties, among a host of other parameters.
  • This information will be assimilated and fed into the numerical weather models to enhance forecast output, especially the rainfall forecasts. More accurate forecasts will ultimately help the farming community plan their activities better.


  • Location and Facilities: Situated in Silkheda, away from urban disturbances and industrial activity, ART-CI provides an ideal setting for studying monsoon phenomena. It is strategically positioned to intercept rain-bearing weather systems such as low-pressure areas and depressions originating from the Bay of Bengal.
  • Instrumentation: ART-CI is equipped with a comprehensive suite of remote-sensing and in-situ instruments to continuously monitor various meteorological parameters. 
    • To obtain continuous observations of convection, clouds, and precipitation, and monitor the major modes of variabilities. 
    • The ART is equipped with over two dozen high-end instruments, radars and more. 
      • At 72 metres, ART will house India’s tallest meteorological tower.
    • Some of the instruments deployed are an aethalometer for performing aerosol studies, a cloud condensation nuclei counter, a laser ceilometer to measure cloud sizes, a micro rain radar to calculate raindrop size and its distribution, and a Ka-band cloud radar and a C-band doppler weather radar to help track the movement of rain-bearing systems over this zone.

The primary objectives of ART-CI include:

  • Understanding & Improvement: Understanding monsoon convection and land-atmosphere interactions. 
    • Conducting intense observational campaigns and model runs to improve physical parameterizations in weather prediction models, particularly related to convection and land surface processes. 
    • Facilitating outreach, training, and dissemination of data sets to national and international scientific communities.
  • Collaborative Efforts: The initiative involves collaborative efforts between various institutions, with IITM spearheading research activities and the National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR) hosting and coordinating activities at the Coastal Research Laboratory (CRL) in Chennai.
  • Scientific Significance: The data collected from ART-CI will be crucial for improving predictions of intense convective storms and mesoscale weather events in the monsoon core region. 
    • Additionally, it will aid in understanding the impacts of climate change on rainfall patterns and help enhance forecasting accuracy.
  • Financial Investment: The establishment of ART-CI involves significant financial investment, with a total cost of approximately Rs 125 crore.

Why it's crucial and how it can benefit meteorological research:

  • Studying Monsoon Systems: The ART focuses on conducting ground-based and in-situ observations of transient synoptic systems, such as low-pressure areas and depressions originating in the Bay of Bengal during the southwest monsoon season. 
    • By studying these systems and their associated cloud parameters, researchers aim to generate extensive data sets for comparison with existing weather models. 
    • This data will help improve the accuracy of rainfall predictions, which is vital for various sectors including agriculture.
  • Enhancing Agricultural Planning: With a significant portion of India's workforce engaged in agriculture and a substantial portion of agricultural activities being rain-fed, accurate rainfall predictions are crucial for planning agricultural activities. 
    • The monsoon season, particularly in the central India region, accounts for a substantial portion of the country's annual rainfall. 
    • By improving the understanding and prediction of monsoon dynamics, the ART can contribute to more effective agricultural planning and management, thereby benefiting farmers.
  • Addressing Limited Understanding: Despite the importance of the monsoon core zone (MCZ) in central India, there is still limited understanding of the role played by synoptic systems, cloud physics, and other atmospheric parameters in enhancing monsoon rainfall. 
    • The ART provides an opportunity for scientists and meteorologists to conduct hands-on studies of monsoon phenomena, thereby enhancing our understanding of these complex processes.
  • Mitigating Climate Change Impacts: Climate change has led to erratic rainfall patterns and strengthened low-pressure systems, leading to heavy rainfall events during the monsoon season. 
    • By collecting long-term observations on various atmospheric parameters, including cloud microphysics, precipitation, and land-surface properties, the ART can contribute to better understanding and mitigating the impacts of climate change on the Indian monsoon.
  • Ideal Location and Instrumentation: Silkheda's location directly in the path of major rain-bearing synoptic systems, coupled with its pristine environment free from pollutants, makes it an ideal site for meteorological observations. 
    • The ART is equipped with advanced instrumentation, including radar systems, micro rain radar, and laser ceilometers, enabling comprehensive monitoring of convection, clouds, precipitation, and other atmospheric phenomena.


ART-CI represents a pioneering effort to establish a state-of-the-art research facility focused on enhancing understanding of monsoon dynamics and land-atmosphere interactions in the central region of India. With its extensive instrumentation and strategic location, it aims to address critical gaps in atmospheric research and improve forecasting capabilities for the benefit of society, particularly in the context of agriculture and water resource management. 

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