Dev Raj Sikka, India’s monsoon man, dies at 85
New Delhi: Former Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) director Dev Raj Sikka, known as the ‘monsoon man’ for his role in helping scientists develop better prediction systems for India’s rainy season, died on Saturday after a heart attack. He was 85.
Sikka was honoured with the lifetime achievement award by the Indian Meteorological Society (IMD) in December 2016 in recognition of his contribution to Indian meteorology spanning over six decade.
Born in Jhang Maghiana (western Punjab) in Pakistan Sikka joined the India Meteorological Department (IMD) in 1954 before moving to the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) in Pune, from where he retired as its director.
Over an illustrious career as a weather scientist, Sikka became known for his work on the prediction of monsoon—notoriously erratic in the subcontinent—and tropical meteorology, including extreme weather events.
“His contribution to the field of Indian Monsoon is beyond comparison as he had a pivotal role in various studies that included correlation between the Indian Monsoon and El-Nino, Walker Circulation, extreme weather events and Monsoon studies conducted over Indian Ocean,” Skymet Weather Services said in an obituary published on its website.
“Dev Raj Sikka was the force behind the Monsoon Mission, an India-UK scientific collaboration that aimed at setting up the infrastructure and man-power to improve the prediction at all-time scales. This mission enabled the meteorologists to predict perfect seasonal and extended range prediction system. It also helped to predict better short and medium range prediction system,” it added.
Sikka was also chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR’s) committee on climate change, and chairperson of the Research and Advisory Council of the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast.
Scientists who worked with Sikka described his contribution to monsoon research as unparalleled.
“His contribution towards monsoon research and prediction is immense. He spent his whole life on that. He was an absolute authority on monsoon. When Monsoon Mission was started he whole heartedly supported it. He always had something to contribute,” said former secretary of the union ministry of earth sciences Shailesh Nayak.
“But his best attribute was that he was frank and straightforward. Overall, his contribution in nurturing young talents was amazing. He remained active long after he retired. We have lost a very important person,” added Nayak.