Bali/Geneva - At their quadrennial meeting, the South-West Pacific National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) will address their evolving role and responsibilities in the face of the region’s increasing vulnerability to climate variability and change and natural hazards.
At the opening of the meeting on 30 April, Mr M. Jarraud, WMO Secretary-General, highlighted that some NMHSs in the region have adopted new responsibilities such as geo-hazards and climate services incorporating the provision of tsunami warnings and seasonal climate predictions among others. These additional responsibilities are in addition to their more traditional role in issuing warning of impending disasters caused by typhoons and other characteristic weather extremes.
About 84 per cent of natural hazards in the region are of meteorological or hydrological origin. Bali and other islands are vulnerable to different natural hazards, such as volcanic activity or the earthquakes and tsunamis which periodically threaten their livelihoods. During the last four years, several Members from the South-West Pacific region were seriously affected by natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis in Indonesia, in July 2006 and September 2009; mudslides and floods in the Philippines, following typhoons Durian in December 2006 and Ketsana in September 2009; a tsunami in April 2007 and a flash flood in January 2010 in Solomon Islands; the September 2009 tsunami in American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga; and flash floods in Cook Islands, Fiji and Tonga caused by tropical cyclones between January and March 2010. In addition, abnormally high sea-levels affected the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands in late 2008.
“We cannot wait for the economic crisis to conclude before reaffirming the need to support NMHSs as investments in sustainable development and the protection of lives and property”, Mr Jarraud said. “Many critical issues persist, like climate change and adaptation to its impacts, natural disaster risk reduction, food security, water resources management and health, and they may even be accentuating”.
Among the main tasks ahead, the WMO Secretary-General mentioned further improvement in forecasting and warning services through numerical weather prediction products; strengthening the role of NMHS in risk reduction coordination and multi-hazard early warning systems; and collaboration with relevant international and regional institutions.
Many projects across the Pacific region are underway, including the upgrading of satellite-based communication of warnings to meteorological services and natural disaster management offices in the Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS). WMO is providing special assistance to Cook Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tonga in the restoration of their affected basic meteorological infrastructures.
WMO Regional Associations are meeting every four years. This (fifteenth) session of WMO Regional Association V is expected to review the activities of WMO’s 20 Members countries and territories in the region, and to identify priority areas for cooperation among them, such as climate change, early warning systems and new meteorological technologies.
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