Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
Asia-Pacific economies have been suffering from extreme temperatures since late 2015 to the early months of this year. In Papua New Guinea, 2.7 million people are affected by drought, a quarter of whom face critical food shortage. Last year, Viet Nam reportedly experienced the worst drought in nearly a century. The government said that the Mekong River, which supplies irrigation to the economy’s “rice bowl” in the south, was at its lowest level since 1926. Affected by drought, Malaysia's vegetable exports have fallen, causing prices to soar in its neighboring economies.
The Asia-Pacific region usually bears the brunt of the effects of a changing climate, which is why climate predictions resulting from a collaboration between APEC economies are an important breakthrough, especially for vulnerable economies. Called the Multi-Model Ensemble (MME), this tool forecasts temperature and rainfall patterns for up to three months. This advance notice will allow governments, industries, and communities to plan for and mitigate against the effects of extreme weather and climate events.
“The forecasts proved extremely important as we experienced the 2015-2016 El Nino event,” says Neil Plummer from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. “The forecasts provide the international community with a highly valuable resource for climate adaptation and risk management.” The APEC Climate Center (APCC) develops these forecasts using data gathered from 17 agencies and research organizations.
Led by the APCC, the tool is a product of a ten-year collaboration between meteorologists and climate change scientists from the APEC member-economies. The center draws expertise from many of the region’s most technically advanced weather and climate organizations, including the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the Japan Meteorological Administration, the Meteorological Service of Canada, and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
According to Dr Jin Ho Yoo, APCC Climate Prediction Team leader, the center facilitated an exchange of seasonal climate information and prediction technologies with the overall goal of reducing the impact of climate-related disasters.
“The Asia-Pacific region includes many economies that are highly vulnerable to climate change,” says Dr Yoo. “Responding to climate change is not simply a matter of building new infrastructure. It is more important to make society more resilient to the effects of short-term climate fluctuations, such as drought and flooding.”
According to Dr Yoo, climate prediction, and seasonal forecasting can act as an early warning system of these fluctuations and prepare economies for climate events that could impact their populations.
“It’s vital that the Asia-Pacific has a proper mechanism for producing and sharing long-range forecasting information and techniques,” he says. “Besides this tool’s forecasting, the climate center undertakes multiple research projects that aim to improve the quality of climate information and make that data more usable to multiple government agencies.”
“Through the platform provided by the center, we maximize the utility of our collective knowledge on climate systems,” adds Dr Yoo.
Forecasts to help vulnerable economies
Dr Quang Nguyen of the Viet Nam National Centre for Hydrometeorological Forecasts (NCHM) said that the MME forecasts also provide timely precautions against extreme events, one of the region’s most destructive forces.
“The quality of the one-month MME forecast is very good, and that is hugely important, not only in Viet Nam but also in the Philippines and Chinese Taipei,” says Dr Nguyen. “We are some of the most vulnerable economies in the world.”
Besides disaster preparation, the tool also provides critical support to food security. Viet Nam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development also uses the MME forecast to advise farmers on the optimal moments to plant and transplant rice—a critical service for one of the world’s five biggest rice producers.
“It’s a win-win form of collaboration,” says Mr Plummer. “If the outputs from our Australian model line up with the climate center’s forecasts, then that usually increases confidence in the forecasts.”
According to Mr Plummer, the ability to provide accurate long-range forecasts is of critical interest to stakeholders in Australia and, in particular, farmers and state and federal government agencies that manage agriculture and water management.
“These agencies can better prepare and take early action on the basis of these forecasts,” he suggests.
Established in 2015 through the APEC’s Policy Partnership on Science, Technology, and Innovation, the APEC Climate Center is also enhancing long-range forecasting across the Pacific Ocean through a collaboration with the Republic of Korea in a project called Climate Prediction Services.
Set to run for two years, the project will develop region-specific methodologies by taking MME data and techniques and adapting them to the unique geographic features of the Pacific. The ultimate objective is to contribute to community resilience and domestic development planning. This complements other initiatives undertaken by, for example, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.
“Pacific Islands are highly vulnerable to climate extremes,” says Mr Plummer. “As a consequence of the recent El Niño, several countries in the western Pacific experienced drought while others further east experienced higher than normal rainfall.”
“With the help of this collaboration, better seasonal forecasting could significantly improve these economies’ ability to manage the effects of climate variability and change.”