|Photo: Sebastian Voigt
Keeping economies moving across the Caribbean with timely and people-centred weather warnings
The Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) initiative Caribbean project is assisting countries to strengthen and streamline regional and national MHEWSs and service delivery capacity to reduce economic losses.
The Caribbean region’s relationship to climate and weather is complex. On the one hand, the attractive climate is the region’s main economic driver, especially and for the tourism and transportation sectors. On the other, climate and weather generate some of the region’s greatest disaster risks. The 2017 North Atlantic hurricane season was unprecedented, unleashing several major hurricanes that affected many Caribbean SIDS, resulting in over 200 deaths and billions of dollars in losses and damage.42 Two Category 5 hurricanes – Irma and Maria – devastated several Caribbean countries and territories, including Dominica, Puerto Rico, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Martin/Sint Maarten. Dominica alone experienced damages and losses of roughly US$ 1.3 billion, equivalent to 224% of the island’s 2016 gross domestic product (GDP). The majority of economic activity in the Caribbean basin is concentrated in the micro, small and medium-sized sector (MSMEs). With limited access to financial protection and training on business continuity, and constrained opportunities to invest in disaster risk management measures, MSMEs tend to suffer disproportionately and have less capacity than larger, better-capitalized businesses to return to pre-disruption operations in a timely manner.43
EWS has already saved lives. In Anguilla, just before Hurricane Irma, the government, after closing schools and government offices, issued warnings, opened shelters, and advised mariners to stay in port or seek safe anchorage. In Antigua and Barbuda, drains were cleaned for heavy rains expected upon landfall. In the Dominican Republic, more than 3 000 people were safely in shelters when Irma hit because of warning and evacuation orders. However, non-hurricane related quick-onset events such as trough systems, storms and intense rainfall remain less well forecasted and the warnings, when provided, are less actionable. Supported by the CREWS Caribbean project, the region is now embarking on a process to further strengthen its EWS with the development of a regional strategy to coordinate and address key shortcomings and streamline efforts. The regional strategy sees the private sector as a key stakeholder in the process of strengthening and streamlining the EWS, one of the objectives being that private sector entities, including MSMEs, can manage weather-related risks in a more efficient way.
The regional strategy has identified IBF as one key game changer to strengthen MHEWS in the Caribbean, to save more lives and livelihoods, to insulate economic assets from costly impacts, and to support business continuity. IBF goes beyond analysing weather information. It includes understanding of potential impacts that hydrometeorological phenomena may induce and the probability of ‘worst-case scenarios’, which helps to identify possible mitigation measures. IBF would provide more data and analysis concerning the potential impact of disasters that can be communicated to the highly vulnerable MSMEs.
Impact-based forecasting (IBF) has been identified as one key game changer to strengthen MHEWS in the Caribbean.
World Bank, WMO, and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).
|Photo: Amir Jina
Early warnings and anticipatory actions are preparing Bangladesh for the impact of flooding
With a high-density population exposed to multiple hazards, the country is taking a mutli-faceted approach to early warnings and early action.
Bangladesh has a population of more than 165 million inhabitants, with a population density of 1 100 individuals per square kilometre – the highest in the world. Density rates in coastal areas number 1 000 individuals per square kilometre, and flood plains constitute 80% of the country’s total area. The country has a long history of natural hazards, of which floods and cyclones are predominantly responsible for the vast majority of the 520 000 deaths recorded over the last 40 years. The Risk-informed Early Action partnership (REAP) was formed in 2019, and it aims to make a billion people around the world safer from disasters by 2025, by bringing the humanitarian, development and climate communities together to take practical solutions for early action to scale. Bangladesh is a great example to do so at large scale. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the UK Met Office and the World Food Programme (WFP) have been leading efforts to strengthen early warning systems and scale up early action, supporting the government.
As early as 1965, the government initiated early warning systems for residents living along coastal zones and the results are tangible. Cyclone Sidr, which struck in November 2007, was similar to its two major predecessors (Bhola in 1970 and Gorky in 1991), and it devastated a similar area of the country. However, the estimated casualty figure of 4 234 deaths from Sidr reflected a 100-fold improvement following 37 years44 of effort through the Cyclone Preparedness Programme, established in 1970 following Cyclone Bhola.
Currently, information on hazardous events is provided by the Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) to zonal offices and sub-district offices. The sub-district offices pass this information to unions (at the village level) through high-frequency radios. Volunteers then spread out and issue cyclone warnings throughout villages.
In recent years, the UK Aid’s Asia Regional Resilience to a Changing Climate (ARRCC) project has commenced activities to facilitate the enhancement of the forecasting capability of BMD across all timescales to deliver weather and climate information, and services. These include: technical support to help build capacity of BMD for IBF, seasonal forecasting and the development of national climate projections; development of sub-regional early warning services for crop-threatening wheat diseases; and the development of new sea-level rise assessments.
The average asset loss for Bagladeshis affected by floods has dropped from US$ 78 to US$ 57 - a 27% decrease.
Bangladesh Meteorological Department, REAP partners (including the UK Met Office, World Food Programme, the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the United Nations Population Fund), the Global Flood Awareness System, the Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, German Red Cross.
|Photo: Gary Runn
Fiji's MHEWS offers protection from tropical cyclones and associated hazards
The Severe Weather Forecasting programme, Coastal Inundation Forecasting Demonstration Project and Flash Flood Guidance System are helping to minimize fatalities through successful evacuation warnings to vulnerable communities.
Hazards often have cascading effects and do not happen in isolation. Tropical cyclones generate heavy rainfall, strong winds, storm surges, coastal, riverine and flash flooding, the latter of which can result in landslides. The Pacific island nation of Fiji is extremely prone to all of these hazards.
WMO with the Fiji Meteorological Service (FMS) and other national authorities, with the support of various donors, including the CREWS initiative, has implemented three MHEWS-based projects in Fiji to help better prepare the island in protecting lives and property:
- The Coastal Inundation Forecasting Demonstration Project (CIFDP) was designed as an integrated approach to storm surge, wave and riverine flood forecasting for improved operational forecast and warning capabilities. In Fiji, the forecast system developed under CIFDP runs on a desktop computer and produces rapid results. Alerts are broadcast 48 hours ahead of time and warn- ings given with a 24-hour lead time. More frequent updates may be issued depending on the severity of the event. CIFDP also implemented the Japan Meteorological Agency storm surge model encompassing all of the Fijian islands and developed a decision-tree for issuing warnings. The latter combines inputs of observed and forecasted rainfall, storm surge levels and upstream hydrological conditions, based on expert knowledge, to provide guidance to forecasters.
- The Severe Weather Forecasting programme (SWFP) provides the FMS and Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre (RSMC) in Nadi with high resolution Numerical Weather Prediction data provided by BMKG, the NMHS of Indonesia. FMS also receives a regional severe forecast guidance product from RSMC Wellington on a daily basis. The high-resolution data is utilized for the provision of improved forecasts and early warning services. SWFP outputs are also used as inputs to the Flash Flood Guidance System (Fiji-FFGS). The Fiji-FFGS provides FMSs trained forecasters with the capacity to generate and issue flash flood forecasts and warnings with an improved lead-time of up to 36 hours.
All components of the Fiji CIFDP, SWFP, and FFGS are now fully operational, and have provided comprehensive warnings during major events in the 2019-2020 tropical cyclone season. During tropical cyclone Harold in April 2020, with support through the operational systems of SWFP, CIFDP-Fiji and Fiji-FFGS, the FMS was able to provide timely forecasts and early warnings for hydromet hazards including for heavy precipitation, flash floods, strong winds, damaging waves and storm surges to the general public, local communities and relevant authorities, thus contributing to minimizing the loss of life and damage to infrastructure and property.
The impact models run before Tropical Cyclone Harold hit allowed people in Fiji to better prepare. It was a first for Fiji.
WMO, CREWS, Hydrologic Research Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Fiji Meteorological Service, National Disaster Management Office, Korea International Cooperation Agency, Korea Meteorological Administration, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Japan Meteorological Agency, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (New Zealand), Bureau of Meteor- ology, (Australia), The Pacific Community (Pacific Islands), and Tonkin and Taylor (New Zealand).
|Photo: United Methodist News
Lessons to be learned from Africa's most devastating cyclones
More lives would have been saved if forecasts had given more information about the potentially damaging impacts of the cyclones and people had understood the imminent danger.
On the evening of 14 March 2019, tropical cyclone Idai made landfall in the northern vicinity of Beira, Mozambique with 165 km/h winds gusting up to 230 km/h, bringing torrential rains and very high storm surges. The wave height exceeded 10 meters, making it one of the most destructive tropical cyclones ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere. The town of Buzi and the city of Beira were devastated. One month later, tropical cyclone Kenneth made landfall in the northern province of Cabo Delgado with a wind speed of 220 km/h, making it even stronger than Idai – and among the strongest cyclones to ever hit Africa.
Idai and Kenneth wreaked havoc on lives, livelihoods, and homes in Mozambique, killing more than 700 people, displacing some 420 000 and affecting more than two million. Cyclone Idai, in particular, which affected densely populated areas, had a magnitude which overwhelmed the institutional and individual capacities to prevent and recover from the impacts of the cyclones.
Benefiting from a well-established global and regional operational network and collaborative efforts coordinated by the WMO, Idai’s intensity, track and expected time and location of landfall were accurately anticipated. This allowed the issue of warnings to communities. However, the flooding resulting from prevailing conditions exacerbated by Idai’s heavy rainfall proved to be more challenging to predict.
Mozambique’s National Institute of Meteorology, National Directorate of Hydrological Resources Management and the National Institute of Disaster Management issued alerts and disseminated warning messages via TV, radio, and megaphones on cars. For both cyclones, forecasts were used to prepare, and in the case of cyclone Kenneth, to evacuate, 30 000 people out of harm’s way.
However, despite the alerts and warnings during and after Idai’s landfall, the total breakdown of communications and power electricity made the further communication of warnings nearly impossible. People were left without a way to receive warnings of impending floods. And the very rapid increase of water levels caused the failure of the community-based flood warning system in place in the Búzi district, exacerbating the flood impact. The situation was made worse due to the fact that it happened at night. The EWS was not designed or resourced to be able to deal with night-time flooding due to a poor communication infrastructure.
Successes included the accurate cyclone forecasting and collaboration between the disaster management authorities, the Red Cross, and community structures in communicating warnings. However, loss of life and damages could have been reduced with better flood forecasting and improved warnings containing information about expected impacts and specific actions to take. Flood warnings, for example, did not accurately indicate the time floods would hit, nor the magnitude of the flooding. In the case of cyclone Idai, even with accurate forecasting and dissemination of the warnings, nobody expected a storm of such magnitude. People understood that a cyclone was coming but did not necessarily take action because they believed it would be similar to cyclones they had experienced in the past. Moreover, the disseminated warning messages were unclear to the targeted audience, as they did not communicate the potential impact and damage that could be caused, in particular to flimsier houses in poorer communities. The impacts of cyclone Idai demonstrated the greater need for the development of IBF services.
Loss of life and damage could have been reduced with better flood forecasting and improved warnings.
WMO, ISET-International, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Mercy Corps, Practical Action (PA), Zurich Insurance Group, Mozambique Red Cross, Mozambique’s National Institute of Meteorology, National Directorate of Hydrological Resources Management and the National Institute of Disaster Management, UK Met Office, German Red Cross.
|Photo: Constant Loubier
A data-sharing and monitoring platform is protecting lives in Cambodia
Combining on-the-ground data with satellite information, the Platform for Real-Time Impact and Situtation Monitoring (PRISM) is providing tools ot estimate the impacts of extreme weather to inform preparedness and reduce impacts from climate-related disasters.
With about two million people living in poverty, Cambodia is particularly vulnerable to extreme events including droughts and floods, with farmers struggling to adapt to a changing climate and higher variability in weather conditions. Often information reaches communities too late for households to make informed decisions on when to plant and to harvest, and, critically, when to take action to move their families and assets out of harm’s way in case of severe weather.
Working closely with countries and research centres, WFP has developed and piloted PRISM in the Asia-Pacific region. PRISM monitors the risks of extreme weather events on vulnerable communities and automatically generates analyses of potential impacts. This analysis is then used to inform effective preparedness at different levels, disaster mitigation strategies and early response. PRISM is actively used by government partners in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Cambodia, and is being launched in Mongolia, with future plans for a deployment in Myanmar.
Bringing together Earth Observation data and early warning system alerts with key information on socio-economic vulnerability, including poverty and food insecurity, PRISM produces near real-time risk and impact maps which are displayed in an interactive dashboard that enables decision- makers to identify and prioritize anticipatory actions and humanitarian responses. The recent integration of Earth Observation data for PRISM in Cambodia is the result of a collaboration with the SERVIR program – a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) initiative, which brings the strength of NASA research capacity to the Government of Cambodia and WFP.
An innovative component of PRISM Cambodia is the use of field-based impact assessments collected by government disaster management agencies. These assessments, collected on mobile devices and published to PRISM, provide dynamic information on the current conditions and needs on the ground, including the impact of a disaster and the needs of people affected. Moving forward, PRISM aims to incorporate dynamic data on vulnerability collected by WFP and partners.
In Cambodia, WFP launched an upgraded version of PRISM with the Government of Cambodia’s National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM) in 2020. NCDM will be able to rapidly capture and disseminate critical information on the potential impact of a disaster providing key information for its own decision making – an important new capability considering the frequent floods and droughts that have affected Cambodia severely in the past few years. PRISM has also provided critical information to the Humanitarian Response Forum in Cambodia, a coordination mechanism on droughts and floods comprised of United Nations agencies and international NGOs working closely with the NCDM to provide support during humanitarian crises.
World Food Programme
|Photo: Adii Wahid
Protecting Mongolian herding families from dzuds46 through anticipatory action
Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the Mongolia Red Cross are working to protext livestock farmers from experiencing the adverse impacts of dzuds, which are becoming mroe severe and frequent than in the past due to climate change.
Raising livestock remains the most important livelihood in Mongolia and is the sole source of income for 35% of households.
For Mongolians and their livestock, very hot summers and dry, very cold winters have been part of life for centuries. But climate change has made what is known as a dzud more severe and more frequent. During recent dzuds many herding households have lost all their livestock or could not afford extra fodder, of which there is little available anyway. Consequently, they are often threatened with destitution in the space of a single season.
Ahead of the 2018 dzud, two critical warnings were issued to support Mongolian farmers. The Government of Mongolia sounded a first alarm in November, through its Information and Research Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment (IRIMHE). The Institute shares a dzud risk map annually, and for the 2018 season it showed half the country already covered by snow. This product is the first of its kind in Mongolia and has become the key service for triggering anticipatory humanitarian action.
The second warning was a joint FAO-WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment pointed towards abnormal dry conditions which resulted in below-average availability of fodder. The warning combined 11 indicators in total, including snow-cover days, weather patterns and agricultural vulnerability to show 30% of the country as being at high risk – and another 30% at medium risk – of a severe dzud. Overlaying the monitoring and forecasting together with social and economic information helped closely pinpoint the most vulnerable families to target for anticipatory actions. These EWSs were used once again in 2020 by FAO and the Mongolian Red Cross.
FAO and the Government acted quickly based on these warnings to support 1,008 vulnerable herders and their families living on the urban fringes of Ulaanbaatar. Anticipatory actions included destocking of livestock, with households receiving money for the carcasses of a goat and a sheep in December 2017 to cover their immediate needs. Families told FAO interviewers that this helped them to buy extra food supplies at the best time, before prices spiked as the dzud began to bite. Shortly after, FAO distributed 340 tonnes of concentrated feed and 17 tonnes of nutritional supplement to rural herders swiftly followed at the start of 2018, the lean season. FAO distributed the livestock meat from destocking to vulnerable urban households living in poor areas on the edges of Ulaanbaatar. This saved the households a precious US$ 32 over a period of more than two months when finances were especially stretched. Families said they were able to divert the money they saved to buying essentials, such as food, medicine and school supplies. Meanwhile, FAO distributed 340 tonnes of concentrated feed and 17 tonnes of nutritional supplement to rural herders swiftly followed at the start of 2018, the lean season. The Mongolian Red Cross also provided 2 500 herder families with cash transfers and emergency livestock kits. A recent study showed that by providing early assistance before winter conditions reached their most extreme, the Red Cross intervention effectively reduced livestock mortality by up to 50% and increased offspring survival for some species, thereby helping to secure future livelihoods.
An FAO-led impact study found that every US$ 1 spent had a return of US$ 7 in added benefits and avoided losses for rural herders.
FAO-WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment, Government of Mongolia and Information and Research Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment (IRIMHE), Mongolia Red Cross, Ngoya University of Japan and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.
|Photo: Random Institute
An EWS protecting those living and working in the Lake Victoria Basin, East Africa
Severe weather warnings can deliver benefits of up to US$ 50 million a year by protecting fishermen and small boat passengers in the Lake Victoria Basin region.
The Lake Victoria Basin (LVB) is the “lifeblood” of East Africa, supporting 25% of the population, and especially those in the agriculture and fishing industries. Between 3,000 and 5,000 deaths occur each year in the LVB as a result of navigation accidents due to strong winds and high waves.
The WMO Severe Weather Forecasting Programme in Eastern Africa (SWFP-Eastern Africa) began as a demonstration project back in 2010, designed to protect people across seven countries: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. The SWFP is implemented through a ‘cascading forecasting process’. It uses numerical weather prediction (NWP) contributions from the World Meteorological Centres in Exeter, Reading and Washington to support the Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres (RSMCs) in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Due to this operational support from WMO global and regional centres, today the seven countries are able to issue forecasts and warnings at national and local levels, across the LVB region.
Five out of the seven countries are also involved in the HIGHWAY project, set up in 2017 to strengthen the process by providing the latest NWP tools, nowcasting products and a nearcast system which can help NMHSs to issue timely alerts and warnings to fishers and local communities. The HIGHWAY project has also contributed to the enhancement of observation systems used across the LVB. More, and higher quality, observational meteorological data improves NWPs at the regional scale, and increases detection and monitoring capabilities with respect to severe weather.
A key indicator of the results of the above measures is the value of avoided losses due to the use of climate or weather information. The primary benefits of the interventions on the lake are the reduction in deaths from drowning, for fishermen and small-scale passenger transport, as well as the loss of boats and subsequent loss of livelihoods. A pilot study showed that around 73% of the sampled population used the supplied weather information. As a result, 46% of the beneficiaries – estimated at around 400 000 people – saved more than US$ 1 000, and 2.56% saved more than US$ 10 000 from loss of property.
3 000-5 000 deaths occur in LVB every year due to navigation accidents caused by strong winds and high waves.
WMO, UK Met Office (UKMO), University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD), Rwanda Meteorological Agency (Meteo Rwanda), Tanzania Meteorological Authority (TMA), Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA), ActionAid Uganda, Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) and East African Community (EAC).
|Photo: Sérgio Gonçalo
The Greater Horn of Africa protects itself with a range of early warning products
Seasonal forecasts and advisories of historical rainfall anomalies provide early warnings of potential drought conditions.
Like many parts of the tropics, the Greater Horn of Africa is exposed to extreme climate events, including drought. In an attempt to reduce the impact of such climate events, WMO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) set up the regional Drought Monitoring Centre (DMC) in Nairobi, as well as a smaller centre in Harare, covering 24 countries in the eastern and southern African sub-region. DMC Nairobi later became an Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) institution and was renamed the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC). ICPAC is a WMO Regional Climate Centre (RCC).
The story stretches back over two decades to the first Greater Horn of Africa Regional Outlook Forum in 1998, when the tools available for seasonal forecasting were limited. Seasonal forecasts from computer-based models of the climate were only just beginning and the high-powered computing facilities needed were much more limited. Consequently, a mix of various simpler tools and “forecaster judgement” - the so-called “semi-subjective” method - became the norm across Regional Climate Outlook Forums established to issue seasonal climate outlooks, including for the Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Fourm (GHACOF).
The semi-subjective method has served the Eastern Africa region well for many years with advice on seasonal prospects informing preparatory action in a number of sectors including agriculture, food security, livestock, water, health, conflict and media. Through work over many years, led by ICPAC’s Climate Modelling Group, collaborations and data links with these modelling centres and research organisations have strengthened, with information from climate models increasingly used in generating the GHA forecasts.
So, when in 2017 WMO decided that the climate model methodology had developed sufficiently to replace the semi-subjective method, ICPAC was ready. In a transformational change at GHACOF 52 in May 2019 ICPAC adopted a fully objective climate model-based forecast methodology. The new system replaces 20 years of the semi-subjective forecast and heralds a new era in seasonal forecast services. The objective approach is based more deeply in the underlying climate science and is much better suited to the development of customized services for socio-economic sectors.
As the above improvements illustrate, countries in the region have made tremendous advances to mitigate and anticipate losses from extreme climate events, including drought. These improvements extend into the preparedness and response measures adopted by governments. For example, following a massive drought in the 1970s, the Government of Ethiopia established the Relief and Recovery Commission (RRC) to manage the effects of droughts in the country.47 Ethiopia’s early warning system (EWS), established in 1976,48 has been consistently improved over the last decades and is supported by various government ministries. The current EWS monitors all threats to food insecurity, including drought, pests, and diseases.49 The Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) was established to provide contingency budgets and risk financing should certain communities suffer from drought impacts. As a result, when comparing the drought from 1983-1984 and the 2009-2012 drought, which lasted for almost the same duration of time and affected the same areas of Ethiopia, the numbers suggest a significant reduction in mortality. The number of deaths associated with the drought in the 1980s was 300 000 people with 7.5 million others affected. While the total mortality associated with the 2009-2012 drought is unknown, the crude mortality rate for the population admitted to feeding centres was only 0.6%.50
ICPAC has developed a range of climate- and drought-related products designed to reduce the impact of extreme climate events.
|Photo: KCBD Communities
Preparing Burkina Faso to protect human health from sand and dust storms
The WMO Sand and Dust Storm Warning Advisory and Assessment System (SDS-WAS) will be crucial in reducing short-term impacts, as well as equipping national risk management efforts in the longer term.
Sand and dust storms (SDS) pose a major challenge to sustainable development in arid and semi-arid regions. They occur when strong or turbulent winds lift large amounts of sand and dust from bare, dry soils into the atmosphere.
These storms are becoming more frequent as a result of anthropogenic climate change and unsustainable land and water use.51 A significant part of the dust emission is a consequence of human-induced factors, such as poor agricultural practices or land and water mismanagement.
The SDS-WAS52 enhances the ability of countries to deliver timely, quality sand and dust storm forecasts, observations, information and knowledge to users through an international partnership of research and operational communities. More than 20 organizations currently provide daily global or regional dust forecasts in different geographic regions. Seven global models and more than 15 regional models contribute to SDS-WAS.
The Sand and Dust Storm Warning Advisory System in Burkina Faso, which received funds from the CREWS initiative, is a good example of SDS-WAS effectiveness. Launched in October 2018, the product was designed and generated by the Spanish Meteorological Agency (AEMET) and the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre in collaboration with the Burkina Faso National Meteorological Agency (ANAM).
Colour-coded maps show the risk of high dust concentrations during the following 48 hours for the 13 provinces into which Burkina Faso is divided. The warning levels are computed using the dust surface concentration predicted by the SDS-WAS Northern Africa Middle East Europe Node multi-model median, which is generated daily from 12 numerical predictions released by different meteorological services and research centres around the world. The warning thresholds are set differently for each region, as they are based on the climatology of the prediction product itself, using a percentile-based approach.
According to ANAM in Burkina Faso, the system is being used by local weather forecasters in their daily working routine, providing valuable information about dust situations and helping them to assess them quickly.
This kind of tailored product is a huge time-saver for weather forecasters thanks to the capability of summarizing inputs from a wide range of diverse sources into a single forecast product.
WMO World Weather Research Programme (WWRP) and Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW).
|Photo: Sven Torfinn
EWS protects African nations from upsurge in desert locust
Desert locust early warning intervention has stopped the risk spreading further, while saving millions of dollars' worth of cereal across 10 countries.
After Cyclone Pawan made landfall in early December 2019, flooding in the Horn of Africa created highly favourable breeding conditions for the desert locust. The region is facing the worst desert locust crisis in over 25 years, and the most serious in 70 years for Kenya. Desert locust swarms are also moving across India, Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The situation remains alarming, particularly in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia and is under control for now in Sudan, Eritrea, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Oman. In January 2020, FAO scaled up its activities and launched a formal appeal to contain the locust upsurge.
Control and surveillance operations were led by national governments, with FAO providing support in the form of pesticides, bio-pesticides, equipment, aircraft and training. FAO’s Desert Locust Information Service (DLIS) issued 10 warnings on the situation and inform the governments of the affected countries. This input was integrated into FAO’s desert locust global EWS.
Once alerted to the situation, the governments of the affected countries mobilized staff and resources to kick-start the control operation and engaged with FAO to design, implement and monitor technically sound and to-scale operations. The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in collaboration with FAO, has customized its HYSPLIT dispersion model so that it can be used for tracking desert locust swarms forward and backward in time. The model results are incorporated into FAO’s advice and forecasts which are then provided to affected countries for improved preparedness and response.
FAO has also rapidly expanded its original eLocust3 digital tool, a rugged handheld tablet that sends data from the field via satellite, to new versions for smartphones, a GPS satellite communicator and a web form. FAO’s DLIS uses satellite imagery to monitor rainfall and green vegetation in locust breeding areas and is putting into operation a new product that monitors soil moisture for locust breeding. In collaborating with Airbus, FAO is using remote sensing technology to estimate damage caused by the outbreak.
Thanks to FAO support, 400,000 hectares have been protected across 10 countries thus far. Based on preliminary analyses and projections of areas controlled, and the likely damage caused if not protected, 720,000 tons of cereal were saved or secured across Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania and Yemen, worth around US$ 220 million. This is enough to feed almost five million people for one year. Through damage averted to rangeland and livestock tropical units, an additional 350 000 pastoral households have been spared from livelihood loss and distress.
720 000 tons of cereal were saved across 10 countries, worth around US$ 220 million.
FAO, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Airbus.
Alleviating the dangers of melting glaciers in Nepal
Nepal's EWS includes hydromet and Glacial Lake Outburst Flood sensors and automatic sirens, to ensure that major vulnerable settlements around Imja Lake are alterted to risks of flooding.
More than 60 years ago in the lower reaches of the Himalayas, a few ponds formed due to the slow melt of the Imja glacier. Today, the ponds are gone. Instead, Imja Lake has taken their place, as a huge body of water that stretches for nearly two kilometres.
The lake poses a deadly threat. Six glacial lakes have been identified as high risk and Imja Lake is the second highest in Nepal, as classified by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development in 2010. As the glacier has been melting in recent years due to global warming, the lake water levels keep rising. The fear is it could burst its banks or, worse yet, that a quake could trigger an outburst, with water cascading downstream killing thousands of people. Such an outburst could result in massive destruction, affecting up to 500 000 inhabitants, and damaging property worth over US$ 9 billion.
To blunt the threat, the Government of Nepal, with support from the Global Environment Facility’s Least Developed Countries Fund and UNDP, has built a system to relieve pressure on the lake. Sensors monitor water levels and water is released via a canal. The system, operated by Nepal’s Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM), consists of hydromet and Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) sensors and automatic sirens in six major vulnerable settlements. A decision support system uses 10 GLOF detection sensors to verify events, as well as the Iridium communication system to trigger warnings, based on the data received from the monitoring system put in place. The DHM receives data and information through its web portal and is able to communicate GLOF risk warnings to the National Emergency Operation Center, which is capable of informing vulnerable communities and tourists of any risks posed by Imja GLOF events, using SMS messages through major telecom providers in Nepal. Imja Lake has also been lowered by 3.4 metres, through water level lowering techniques.
An effective EWS has been put in place resulting in a reduction of the GLOF risks posed by the lake. The EWS reduces the imminent risk posed by the Imja Glacial Lake to more than 12,000 vulnerable people living downstream within the Imja Dudh Koshi river valley.
The EWS now covers over 59 000 people with this service downstream, and over 48 000 people upstream of the valley. The EWS was effective in protecting people in the August flood of 2017, not only within the country but also across the border in China.
The EWS now protects over 59 000 people downstream within the Imja Dudh Koshi river valley.
The Government of Nepal, Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, the Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Development Programme.
|Photo: Shahid Durrani
Reducing risks and vulnerabilities from glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) in Northern Pakistan
District and community authorities across two regions are now able to prioritise and plan measures to minimise potential losses from GLOFs.
People living in northern Pakistan are affected by numerous climate-related hazards, including floods, avalanches and landslides, all of which result in extensive human and material losses. Climate change will exacerbate some of these natural hazards and lead to significant impacts on the region’s development. The largest glaciers in the world outside the Polar Regions are in the Himalayan Karakorum Hindukush mountain ranges in northern Pakistan. This region, the source of large river systems, plays an important role in global atmospheric circulation, biodiversity, water resources, and the hydrological cycle.
A project funded by the Adaptation Fund and implemented by the Government of Pakistan with support from UNDP, is aimed at reducing risks and vulnerabilities from GLOFs and snow-melt flash floods in the Himalayan Karakorum Hindukush (HKH) mountain ranges of Northern Pakistan. To achieve the overall goal, the project helped develop the capabilities of local level institutions (Agriculture, Livestock and Forest departments of Gilgit Baltistan and Chitral) and federal level institutions (Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan, Ministry of Environment and National Disaster Management Authority) to understand the nature and extent of GLOF risks in Pakistan, and their effects on human and economic development in all sectors. Three main approaches were pursued: improvement in policies, awareness generation and infrastructure development.
By the end of the project, at least two policies have been reviewed and/or revised to address or incorporate GLOF risk reduction. GLOF mitigation was included in the National Climate Change Policy launched in 2013. A Disaster Management Act now incorporates GLOFs and other climate-related risks.
Existing DRM guidelines were integrated into long-term climate risk planning. A comprehensive disaster risk reduction plan is available to address the biggest GLOF threats in the most vulnerable communities, now available through a web-based GLOF risk database. The project upgraded traditional early warning systems by equipping them with modern sciencebased techniques to ensure effectiveness and sustainability.
More than 1 000 people in vulnerable communities, of which 50% were women, were sensitised and made aware of GLOF-related hazards, preparedness and adaptation. A total of 200 people, including 80 women, participated in disaster risk management strategies and gained knowledge of techniques for mitigating risks and losses during future GLOFs and other climate change-related disasters. Community Based Organizations (CBOs) were trained in the operation and maintenance of the EWS and ensure its continued functionality.
The project was scaled up with US$ 37 million funding from the Green Climate Fund to build 250 engineering structures to reduce risks to GLOFs and to enhance the early warning systems.53 That project has about 29 million beneficiaries.
The project was scaled up with US$ 37 million funding from GCF to build 250 engineering structures to reduce risks to GLOFs.
Adaptation Fund, United Nations Development Programme and Ministry of Environment, Government of Pakistan.
|Photo: Michael Held
Europe is reaping benefits from a regional and global wildfire information system
The European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) supports wildfire systems in 43 countries, saving nations hundreds of millions of Euros in reduced losses.
Wildfires are a global hazard that contribute to huge environmental damage and economic losses. Every year, around half a million hectares of natural areas are burnt across the European Union. Climate change is expected to further exacerbate wildfire risks.
According to analysis by World Weather Attribution scientists, climate change has increased the chance of the “extreme fire weather” by at least 30%. Scientists estimate that if global temperatures were to rise by 2°C the fire-weather conditions experienced in summer 2019–20 “would be at least four times more common as a result of human-caused climate change”.
The European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS)57 was created to collect standardized information on wildfires, supporting the wildfire management organizations in European countries, with harmonized reporting of wildfire information in support of the European Commission services and the European Parliament. In 2000, the EFFIS became one of the first regional information systems covering a large number of countries in Europe.
Since then, EFFIS has evolved to support wildfire information systems in 43 countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. At a national level, EFFIS provides an ensemble of information including the prediction of wildfire danger in the coming days, seasonal fire weather monitoring, updated information on ongoing fires up to six times a day, analysis of wildfire severity, and assessment of wildfire damages.
The extension of EFFIS to the global level developed into a Global Wildfire Information System (GWIS),58 a joint initiative of Copernicus and the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), using advanced methods on data processing for wildfire detection and monitoring, numerical weather prediction models and remote sensing to enable enhanced preparedness and effectiveness in wildfire management. GWIS is set to be a unique resource supporting developing countries which may not have proper access to information on wildfires.
The economic benefits of establishing the EFFIS have been quantified in different ways. The cost of setting up and operating the system, currently within the Copernicus Emergency Management Services (CEMS), is estimated at € 1.8 million a year. The estimated cost of replicating the tools of EFFIS at a national level would be of the order of € 77.5 million a year.
The benefits provided by EFFIS for preventing environmental damage and economic losses by the wood industry in Europe are between € 255 million and € 375 million a year.59 This is based on the contribution of EFFIS to the reduction of burnt areas and how this reduction reverts to reduced environmental damage and reduced economic damage to the wood industry. Adding the savings in operating a regional wildfire early warning and information system to the benefits in saving environmental and economic losses, which is estimated to be an average of € 315 million, the total estimated benefits of EFFIS amount to around € 390.5 million a year in the European Union.
The direct benefits of international cooperation and enhancement of civil protection’s capacity in developing countries through GWIS are harder to quantify but likely to be highly significant. A 10% reduction of environmental damage worldwide would avoid about € 13 trillion of economic losses.
The total estimated benefits of EFFIS amount to around € 390.5 million a year in the European Union.
European Commission - Joint Research Centre, Group on Earth Observations.
|Photo: Ilaria Spadafora
Effective heat alert systems save lives in Southeast Australia
At a time when heat waves are becoming frequent and more severe, Australia's refined and improved system alerts authorities when severe heat is likely to trigger excess mortality.
Record heat waves in southeast Australia in January 2009 and January 2014 led to an increase in mortality and morbidity, well in excess of the rates expected for the time of year. Both heat waves recorded daily maximum temperatures well in excess of 40 °C over three and four-day periods respectively, and minimum temperatures above 25 °C.
Drought and heatwaves substantially increased the risk of wildfires. The likelihood of the weather conditions that led to wildfires has increased by at least 30% since 1900, as a result of anthropogenic climate change.
During the January 2009 heatwave, a prototype heatwave alert system was only in testing phase, based on research identifying a threshold temperature above which excess mortality occurred in Melbourne, Australia. By the time of the January 2014 heat wave, the heat alert system had been considerably refined, based on further scientific work and interactions between climate scientists and public health authorities. The heat alert system relies on predicted daily temperatures routinely provided by the Bureau of Meteorology. When the temperature at any time in the next seven days is predicted to exceed the threshold identified as triggering excess mortality, a heat wave alert is issued to local government authorities, emergency services, the health and aged care sectors, government departments and agencies, and major metropolitan service providers.
In the days immediately after the 2009 heat wave, deaths increased by 60% relative to the weeks before the heat wave. The excess mortality associated with the 2014 heat wave (167 deaths) was substantially lower than in 2009 (374 deaths), even though the 2014 heat wave lasted longer.
After the 2014 heat wave, deaths increased by 25% relative to the mortality in the two weeks before. The only substantial difference between the two heat wave events was the better developed, implemented and communicated heat wave alert system in 2014. This suggests that the heat wave alert in 2014 saved many lives.
Media briefings also alert the general community to the heat wave alert, and to actions that could be taken to minimize health risks associated with high temperatures. The recently increased quality of the temperature forecasts issued by the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia means that these forecasts provide credible warning of heat waves. The increased forecast quality, and the introduction of heat wave alert systems, have come at an important time, as record heat waves become more frequent and more severe.
The heat wave alert system has come at an important time for Australia, as record heat waves become more frequent and more severe.
Monash University, Bureau of Meteorology of Australia, WMO and World Health Organization Climate and Health Office.
42 Caribbean 2017 Hurricane Season: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Early Warning Systems, WMO, 2018.
43 Fabian Eggers, ‘Masters of Disasters? Challenges and opportunities for SMEs in times of crisis.’ Journal of Business Research. Vol. 115, August 2020, pgs. 199-208.
44 Peter Tatham, Karen Spens, Richard Oloruntoba, May 2009: abstract, “Cyclones in Bangladesh – A Case Study of a Whole Country Response to Rapid Onset Disasters”.
45 Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance Post Event Review Capability (PERC) study analyzing the 2019 Cyclone Idai’s impacts in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe and Cyclone Kenneth’s impacts in Mozambique. Reducing vulnerability to extreme hydrometeorological hazards in Mozambique after Cyclone IDAI, WMO, 2019.
46 Term used to describe severe weather conditions in Mongolia.
47 DPPC Ethiopia, 2005. “Ethiopia: National Information on Disaster Reduction.”
48 Adaptation Partnership. “Disaster Risk Management Programs for Priority Countries: Ethiopia.”
50 Government of Ethiopia DRMFSS, “Emergency Nutrition Quarterly Bulletin, Second and Third Quarter 2011.”
51 WMO SDS-WAS, 2020: Sand and Dust Storm Warning Advisory and Assessment System. Science Progress Report. World Meteorological Organization (WMO), GAW Report No. 254 & WWRP Report 2020-4. Geneva, Switzerland, June 2020, 45pp.
53 FP018 “Scaling-up of Glacial Lake Outburst Flood Risk Reduction in Northern Pakistan”, GCF funding amount: US$ 37 million.
55 Studies based on IPCC data say there’s a 95% chance we’ll pass 2°C by the year 2100.
56 Van Oldenborgh et al, Attribution of the Australian bushfire risk to anthropogenic climate change.
59 PwC, 2019. Analysis of benefits by the EU Copernicus services carried out by PwC for the European Commission.
60 van Oldenborgh, G.J. et al. 2020: Attribution of the Australian bushfire risk to anthropogenic climate change, Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss.