Babu Sundar Sekhar Chatterjee’s paper was the earliest report of a tornado’s dynamics within the history of meteorology, in line with the research Babu Sundar Sekhar Chatterjee’s, an Indian scientist employed with the Surveyor General of India in the course of the British colonial period, was likely the first person to scientifically document a tornado’s path in 1865, a research from the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, has claimed.
By carefully looking and analysing papers about tornados, Saumyendu Dey and AK Sahai, scientists at IITM Pune, concluded that Chatterjee’s paper was the earliest report of a tornado’s dynamics within the history of meteorology.
Chatterjee had revealed his findings in a journal named Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, in a paper titled ‘Note on a whirlwind at Pundooah’. The paper described a tornado’s dynamics in accurate detail and was accompanied by a sketch that mathematically depicted its scale, track, and rotation.
“There is a legacy of meteorological research in India. We find that it’s Chatterjee’s brilliance and nature’s assistance that helped him decode a tornado’s scale and dynamics with such scientific accuracy that his conclusions are relevant even today, that is, more than a century later,” Dey stated.
At the time when Chatterjee published his paper, data of extreme weather events in India existed as eyewitness accounts or entries in ships’ logbooks. This remained the scenario for many of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
However, Chatterjee did it in a different way. He quantitatively mapped the whole path of a tornado’s destruction. He benefited from the rare opportunity to watch a tornado passing by a railway track where there were conveniently placed markers at predefined locations like railway line mileposts and telegraph posts that enabled him to observe and clarify measurements of the tornado’s path, dynamics and path.
Chatterjee’s sketch of the twister monitor and rotation which crossed a railway monitor at Pandua (R).The sketch determine was reconstructed. (Courtesy: Rajanikant Shinde, IT Engineer, IITM)
The tornado documented by Chatterjee had occurred on Might 5, 1865, at 18:00 hours in Pandua, located within the Hoogly district of West Bengal. Pundooah is a railway station in the Pandua area of Hoogly.