August 2009

Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project

At its 61st session, the WMO Executive Council decided to continue the course of improving the forecasting capabilities of NMHSs, through the successful Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project (SWFDP), which is underpinned by the Global Data-Processing and Forecasting System, through improved access to and effective use of outputs of numerical weather prediction systems, and in collaboration with the Public Weather Services to improve the delivery of warning services. SWFDP represents a systematic and practical approach for building capacity and for transferring new knowledge and skills. Two demonstration projects are now in progress. The first regional project, which started in 2006, is being expanded to include all 16 countries of southern Africa and to span all seasons. A second project is in its early stage of implementation for the South Pacific Islands, which will address heavy rains, strong winds and damaging waves.

Southern Africa

A two-week training workshop in November 2008 launched the expansion in southern Africa. The event covered forecasting techniques and use of ensemble prediction products, focusing on severe weather and delivery of warning services. Participants included operational forecasters and representatives of national disaster management offices. In February 2009, the project’s Regional Technical Implementation Team was established and met with the principal objective to agree on the Implementation Plan, including three projects to be carried out, focusing on weather warnings: verification, exchange, and soliciting public feedback. Those NMHSs which participated most recently have filed their first status report describing their experiences up to the end of March 2009, all of which indicated significant improvements to their forecasting and warning programmes, including the delivery of warning services.

The participating countries acknowledged the critical role of the guidance products provided to the SWFDP by Met Office (UK), NCEP (USA), ECMWF, RSMC Pretoria (South Africa) and RSMC La Réunion (France).


Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project, SWFDP - Southern Africa project; Meeting of the Regional Technical Implementation Team, Pretoria, South Africa, 24-27 February 2009

Quoting from a message from Sacrasta Nchengwa, the representative from Botswana’s Department of Meteorological Services (DMS) to the SWFDP:

“… I would like to report to you that your (with your partners) dedication and tireless efforts in helping developing countries’ NMSs to improve their capability to forecasts severe weather has not gone unnoticed. Recently, the DMS through its Weather forecast issued two press releases to the public through the media and the Disaster Management Office and true to the forecasts the expected conditions did occur. The press releases were first read over all the radios as part of the news bulletins. Though we have already entered into the winter season in Botswana, our confidence in the forecasts as issued by the modes was so high that we did not even hesitate to issue a press release (which contained advisories) at least 72 hours before the onset of the expected events. The feedback was massively positive and for the first time in a long time, DMS got commendations from a lot of customers including high profile figures in the society. Most feedback we got was through the telephone and during the week following the issue of the first press release our telephone lines were busy with more request for warnings and forecasts from a more appreciative public.
What took us by surprise was the huge interest and publicity generated by those press releases … I can confidently and categorically state that the public’s view about DMS has changed for the better and the DMS visibility has been enhanced as a result. Our participation in the SWFDP project surely played a huge part in the this recent achievement.” (2 July 2009)

South Pacific Islands

A new SWFDP regional project is being implemented to address severe weather forecasting and warnings and a disaster risk reduction services in the WMO Regional Association V ( South-West Pacific), focusing on the South Pacific Islands. A regional project management team meeting was held in Wellington, New Zealand (April 2009) and developed the implementation plan. The project will commence its pilot phase in November 2009, focusing on forecasting and warning services in relation to heavy rain, strong winds and damaging waves for four island States: Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

Global-scale numerical weather prediction guidance products will be provided by the Met Office (UK), NCEP (USA), ECMWF, and JMA (Japan). The central RSMC role for the project will be undertaken by RSMC Wellington (New Zealand), while RSMC Nadi (Fiji) and RSMC Darwin (Australia) will enhance their existing regional forecasting functions. French Polynesia (France) will support the project with relevant guidance products related to sea-state. The full demonstration phase will begin November 2010 and will include all South Pacific Islands that wish to participate.


Severe Weather Forecasting Disaster Risk Reduction Demonstration Project, SWFDDP - South Pacific Islands project; Meeting of the Regional Subproject Management Team, Wellington, New Zealand, 21-24 April 2009

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