The WMO Marine Service Course Phase 2 was rolled out for the first time for English-speaking countries in the South-West Pacific (WMO Region V) in the months of August and September. The Marine Services Course assists WMO Members by undertaking a gap analysis in Phase I that identifies their strengths and weaknesses in marine service delivery to users, then works with them in Phase II to address the critical gaps. Phase 1 is completely online and had been carried out since 2019, but COVID restrictions delayed Phase 2, which is includes a four-week virtual and a two-week face-to-face session.
The Cook Islands Meteorological Service (CIMS) hosted the two-week Phase 2 face-to-face session, which followed the online training delivered from 29 August–26 September. Building on the collaboration and virtual interaction in Phase 1, the 19 participants – from 9 Pacific Island National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) – were able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses in their marine services and across WMO Region V. Invited experts helped them to address various areas of marine service competency, including technical areas but with an emphasis on service delivery.
One participant highlighted, “We live in the largest Region, but most of it is ocean and we have the least number of Members. A lot of our work is with maritime and the challenges of being dispersed in islands. This training is very important to us. We’ve been pushing for it for a long time and it is a big deal for us in terms of building the capacity of forecasters to deal with ocean events better. Due to climate change, we are experiencing extreme events more regularly and with more intensity so it’s important that we have the skillset in our NMHSs to detect and prepare early.”
In 2022, 23 participants from 15 Caribbean countries (WMO Region IV) and 44 participants from 13 African countries completed the English version of Marine Course Phase 1. So far, 89 participants from 37 countries around the world have participated in the Marine Service Course this year alone.
The Marine Services Course has revealed that many of the challenges faced by NMHSs and in the different Region are unique to their environment and circumstances, however, some common issues and needs were identified:
- Linkage between NMHSs and marine and coastal stakeholders need strengthening. A better understanding of stakeholder needs would enable NMHSs to develop tailor-made products
- NMHS need to incorporate Impact-based Forecasting into the products and services,
- The technical marine service competencies of forecasters/meteorologists need further strengthening and streamlining
- Cross-border communication between NMHSs need strengthening as hazard (such as coastal inundation) can affect several countries at a time
- More ocean-based observations are required.
One participant in the Caribbean Phase I course noted, “We have had a number of boating incidents in coastal waters that have resulted in multiple deaths. Some were deemed to be ‘weather related’ while others were caused by human error. As a forecaster, it is extremely painful when accidents occur that may have been ‘weather related’. You begin to question everything from procedure to clarity of information to delivery.” A participant from Africa further underlined, “In coastal villages, the local fishermen go out to sea in low tides. They predict the tides locally through belief systems passed down from generation to generation. Climate change has impacted their ability to predict the tides, thereby endangering their lives at sea. During our interactions with them, we have adopted better methods of interpreting the forecast, like the use of less technical terminologies and different primary colours to help them understand better.
WMO is looking forward to engaging with more Regions in 2023. Delivery of the French-speaking version of the course will start in African in March. Plans are underway to also roll out the Arabic version of the Course in 2023.
The Marine Services Course benefits from various funding streams and the expert participation of many NMHSs, without which it could not function. The Course contributes to the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science and to the Early Warnings for All initiative. Further information about the Marine Services Course, its funder and experts, and the final reports from the completed Courses can be found here.