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Enhancing Meteorological Services in the Pacific
This article is based on a report in Tiempo Climate Newswatch.
Effective progress is being made in developing the self-sufficiency of meteorological services in Pacific Islands through assistance from New Zealand and other international development partners.
For over 50 years, New Zealand has played a leading role in the provision and development of meteorological services in the South-West Pacific. Since 1984, support has been realigned towards development, which means that New Zealand now has a reduced or only back-up involvement in the actual provision of meteorological services. The focus has moved from directly managing meteorological services to providing advice and assistance on a project basis with funding from various sources, including bilateral and multilateral agreements as well as from the funds of the Meteorological Service of New Zealand (MetService).
Some of the projects are in the form of long term consultancies and may last a few years. Others are one-off specific projects such as REStoring aging weather, Climate and upper air Equipment in PACific Islands (RESCUE-PAC), funded by the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the United Kingdom Met Office and MetService. New Zealand's present assistance to Meteorological Services in the South Pacific is predominantly bilateral in nature. The necessary funding to provide this assistance continues to be secured through both a supply contract with the New Zealand Government for “public good” services and through other New Zealand agencies on a project basis. In addition to the support provided with New Zealand funding, MetService provides substantial technical resources for routine operational support and project implementation in the South Pacific region, which is funded from agencies outside New Zealand.
Meteorological Office, Ha'apai, Tonga, is one of several offices that has benefited
In 2006, for example, New Zealand continued to advise and assist the NMSs of the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Niue, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga and Tuvalu. All these countries received continuous remote advice and assistance for computer and other operational problems, as well as an annual re-supply of meteorological forms.
MetService continues to monitor surface and upper-air observations reporting performance for the assisted countries together with providing an e-mail gateway to WMO’s Global Telecommunication System, which ensures they can participate in the international exchange of data. Country visits have been made to the Cook Islands, Niue, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Samoa and Tokelau. New Zealand is also responsible for providing temporary back-up, usually up to a week, for weather warnings and limited marine and aviation services under the terms of WMO’s Tropical Cyclone Plan for the region. The Tropical Cyclone Plan ensures effective coordination and cooperation in the provision of meteorological information, forecasts and warnings of all tropical cyclones affecting the area.
New Zealand continues to manage and technically support the upper-air programmes at Tarawa (Kiribati), Funafuti (Tuvalu), Penrhyn (Cook Islands), Bauerfield (Vanuatu), Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea) and Honiara (Solomon Islands), as part of its contribution to the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) Upper Air Network (GUAN) and the Pacific Island Global Climate Observing System (PI-GCOS). This also includes some financial support, although consumables and operating costs for these programmes are primarily funded by the UK Met Office and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Global Climate Observing System programme.
Tawara Upper Air programme operations, Kiribati Meteorological Service, Betio, Tawara, Kiribati
Restored Global Climate Observing System Upper-air Network at Bauerfield, Vanuatu.
Another role New Zealand has taken in assisting in the enhancement of meteorological services in this region was as co-initiator of the RANET project in the Pacific region. The RANET (Radio and Internet for the Communication of Hydro-Meteorological and Climate Related Information) project aims to improve access to information and support of rural communities. RANET project work was undertaken in collaboration with Australia, the USA and the United Kingdom. It included installation of high frequency/very high frequency (HF/VHF) radios for local communities in Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Niue.
New Zealand also funded the restoration of the fire-damaged wind finder radar at Rarotonga Airport, Cook Islands. In June 2005, a fire in the radar equipment room extensively damaged the wind finding radar facility. MetService was contracted by the Cook Islands Public Service Commission, the Cook Islands Meteorological Service, the New Zealand International Aid and Development Agency and the UK Met Office to restore the facility. MetService carried out a technical evaluation in July 2005. The aim was to ascertain, as far as practicable, the extent of the damage, both visible and hidden, and to scope and cost the repair. The technical evaluation formed the basis for the Rarotonga wind finding radar restoration project.
Restoration of the fire-damaged wind-finding radar at Rarotonga Airport, Cook Islands,
Upper air measurements are now back to normal at Rarotonga after the restoration of the radar facility. However, installation and replacement of vital equipment need to be carried out urgently so as to ensure the longevity of the wind-finding radar facility. Much of the equipment in need of replacement, including the dehumidifier that is used to keep the antenna dome dry, is at least 20 years old.
As part of its commitment to enhancing the meteorological services in the South-West Pacific, New Zealand continues to fund the preparation and publication of the monthly Island Climate Update, which is managed and implemented by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). The Island Climate Update is a multinational monthly climate bulletin. Its primary goal is to assist Small Island Developing States of the South Pacific make informed planning and management decisions relating to climate sensitive sectors like agriculture, water, tourism, fisheries and energy through the provision of timely and accurate seasonal climate forecasts. New Zealand also actively contributes to PI-GCOS and other communications solutions such as HF radio and satellite email and the Emergency Managers Weather Information Network.
The ultimate goal of New Zealand's support is to assist the Meteorological Services of Pacific island countries to become self-sufficient in managing and operating their own services. There will, though, always be advice and specialist assistance available when required.
Penehuro F Lefale
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