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Weather forecasting

The events of the last few days such as the tragedy in Ormoc, typhoon Egay, the effect of which was made worse by Habagat, and another tropical depression, Falcon, would bring to fore the state of our weather forecasting technology in the news again.

The advent of the rainy season usually ushers in a time of maritime disaster, flash floods, ruined crops, and other weather related calamities. And the usual whipping boy would be our undermanned and underpaid scientists at the Pagasa.

We agree, however, that since Ondoy, our weather-forecasting abilities have improved a lot, notwithstanding the absence of a modernization law. Grants by JICA and UNDP made it possible to acquire Doppler radars, advance communication system among far-off weather stations in the country, automatic and standard weather stations. These modern equipment now allows for real-time collection of high-quality meteorological data for effective use in the provision of weather information, issuance of timely and accurate forecasts and warnings for the general public, shipping and civil aviation.

While we can now reliably predict incoming density of rain, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, air and sea surface temperature, height, period and direction of wave propagation, there is much room for improvement since we still have blind spots that are not covered by our equipment.

But what is really lost in our emphasis on disaster preparedness vis-a-vis our weather forecasting capabilities is that the thrust of weather forecasting really is to predict several years’ worth of weather patterns, not just for disaster preparedness but to benefit our agricultural and fisheries sectors, much like in highly developed countries.

Imagine if our country had advance weather/climate monitoring system with integrated satellite and ground-based data which is then used to build a historical record of spot measurements over time. The better the information available, the more the climate can be understood and the more accurately future conditions can be assessed.

The historical data can then be used integrally with agricultural and fisheries data to maximize our productivity. With a weather-pattern database, farmers will now know what kind of crops to sow, when to plant, and when to reap at the right moment to increase productivity and minimize losses.

While it is true that the weather cannot be predicted with 100-percent accuracy, especially now with the erratic changes in climate due to the global warming phenomenon, an 80-percent accuracy would be highly beneficial not only in terms of disaster preparedness, but also with air and water transportation and food security across the globe.

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