Heads of Meteorological and National Weather Services from the Pacific attending the Fifth Meteorological Council Meeting “Science to Service for a Resilient Pacific," Samoa, August 2019. (Photo: UNDP/Andrea Waqa–Montu)

Meteorologists play an important role in reaching global targets and providing support towards socio-economic development in the Pacific especially in the era of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the global fight for Climate Action.

Weather, water, and climate affect sustainable livelihoods, food security, agriculture, tourism, transport industries, and daily activities.

In order to progress with national priorities and to ensure that no one is left behind, National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS) in the region work to ensure quality meteorological data is collated, analysed and communities are provided with timely and quality predictions, warnings, advisories and other relevant meteorological information.

Based on their support, policy and key decision-makers have access to accurate forecasts and projections for national planning allowing Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to prepare and strengthen resilience towards climate-related hazards that could affect critical infrastructure and industries and undermine sustainable development.

In the event that a disaster occurs in the region, development can be set back many years. Information from meteorologists through early warning forecasts saves and protects life and property, reduces damage and minimizes socio-economic loss.

The report on the Challenges for Meteorology in the Sustainable Development Goals (2015 – 2030) highlighted the role meteorology has and can have towards achieving the 2030 SDGs.

Climatologists work around the clock providing climate science to governments and United Nations (UN) agencies. Their contributions and partnership is important towards various frameworks to build resilience, reduce Pacific SIDS vulnerability and address Disaster Risk Reduction, these include the Paris Agreement, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 – 2030, and regionally the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP) and the Pacific Islands Meteorological Strategy (PIMS) 2012 – 2021 and the SDGs.

Climate Services Manager for the Fiji Meteorological Services (FMS), Mr Terry Atalifo said “Climate scientists are now trying to understand the science better, develop models to improve the skill of our predictions and develop products to specifically address or meet the needs of the communities. Similarly, we are trying to communicate our outlooks and predictions in a manner which communities can understand, easy to use and apply in their daily lives”.

“We formed partnerships with priority sectors, in Fiji’s case we have partnered with the Sugar industry, we actually co-develop and co-produce, where we the scientists interpret the science and the experts from the Sugar industry translate this science into actions in which the sugarcane farmers and the industry as a whole should practice,” said Mr Atalifo.  

Regional meteorologists complete training at the Bureau of Meteorology, Australia.

The increased presence of qualified meteorologists and access to climate services is critical to address national, regional and global development needs and to help manage the risks of increased intensification of extreme weather events and an increase in hydro-meteorological disasters.

Through the assistance from the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji and funding from the Russian Federation, five meteorologists from Fiji, Kiribati and Tonga completed a course in Basic Instructional Package in Meteorology (BIP-M) at the Melbourne, Australia based Bureau of Meteorology Training Center (BMTC) in 2018 and 2019.

The 2019 FMS graduates, Risiate Temo and Vinal Prakash, completed a 9-month course at the BMTC in October and have returned to work at FMS. They will in due course provide much needed forecasting duties to Fiji and the region.

Mr Temo (left) Mr Prakash (right) graduating from the Australia
Bureau of Meteorology Training Center in October 2019.

Whilst it will take some time to see the impacts of training for Mr Temo and Mr Prakash, the 2018 BOM Graduates are contributing effectively to their respective National Meteorological Services in Fiji, Tonga and Kiribati.

Returning to Fiji, and a couple of months on the job, BOM 2018, graduate and Scientific Officer Forecasting with the FMS, Shivneel Artik Prasad shared his growing enthusiasm to unpack meteorology and provide impact-based forecasting. 

2018 graduate students taken on a tour of Bureau of Meteorology's National Operations Centre and also the Victoria Regional Office after participating in a two- day introductory media training course, hosted by two of our Media and Communications Managers Melody Horrill and Catherine Kennedy (Photo: BOM)

“The weather affects everyone regardless of their position, status or any other barrier and encourages me to excel at my work to help keep the people of Fiji and the Pacific safe and well informed when nature's wrath is bound to impact us," said Mr Prasad.  

He added studying at BMTC “for me a major lesson is knowing we need to have in mind the impact of the quality of work we or I do as a meteorologist, can have on the lives of people depending on it.”

“The training at BMTC enabled me to learn the skills and gain the required knowledge, to be able to carry out my work as a meteorologist. After the completion of the training in 2018, I gained confidence in myself as a weather forecaster and the skills acquired have proven beneficial at my workplace.”

“Now when I work, I keep in mind the environment at BMTC and how I was always encouraged to excel and take on challenges to grow in the field of meteorology,” said Mr Prasad.

Siaosi Palu, accepting his certificate in Basic Instructional Package in Meteorology (BIP-M) at the Melbourne, Australia based Bureau of Meteorology Training Center (BMTC) in 2018. (Photo: BMTC)
Shivneel Prasad at the 2018 graduation with Bureau of Meteorology acting Group Executive for National Forecast Services Dr Dasarath (Jaya) Jayasuriya. (Photo: BMTC)

Ofa Fa’ananunu, Director for the Tonga Meteorological Services (TMS) said support from the Russian Government and UNDP for Tongan national Siaosi Palus training in BMTC was “real capacity building.”  

Mr Fa’ananunu added the capacity building and training given to TMS, for, Siaosi Palu from UNDP RESPAC to train for 9 months in 2018 supported Tonga’s greater plan to train 10 meteorologists.

“All our meteorology services are being provided by FMS; the plan is later this year, aviation forecast services will be transferred back to Tonga and we will provide our aviation forecast,” said Mr Fa’ananunu.

“Palu is one staff that we rely on to deliver this important service for the safety of airline transport. What he has received from that training and now to have the capacity, along with what is expected of him to deliver the forecast bench, is very important," said Mr Fa'ananunu.  

Mauna Eria, Kiribati first meteorology graduate from BMTC now supervises the forecasting section in Kiribati and currently holds the position as the lead forecaster.

Mauna Eria in Kiribati after completing his (BIP-M) at the Melbourne, Australia based Bureau of Meteorology Training Center.

“I must ensure that we provide an accurate forecast, people are depending on me for their daily routine whether pleasure, business or traveling," said Mr Eria.

All BOM graduates have returned to their respective countries and serving at their respective national meteorology service.

About RESPAC Project

The RESPAC project funded by the Russian Federation supports NMHS in the region to build a platform in which the science of accumulating and analysing climate data can be better understood and utilised by all users. Meteorological services are critical to enhance resilience and reduce vulnerability from natural hazards.

The need for more qualified meteorologists and hydrologists in the region is visible.

RESPAC works with partners primarily within the Pacific Meteorological Council to ensure that national capacities within the Pacific region and specifically the 15 countries and territories to support climate research is properly documented and that there is a regional platform on which current and future generations of meteorologists, weather forecasters, and climate scientists can be trained.

A feasibility study to determine whether a Pacific Based World Meteorology Organization Regional Training Center (RTC) was viable and carried out in May 2018. In August this year, at the Fifth Pacific Meteorological Council (PMC) meeting for “Science to Service for a Resilient Pacific”, the Pacific Meteorological Council members endorsed the report. 

RESPAC Project Manager and Disaster Response and Recovery Advisor, Noud Leenders, said, “The project supports NMHS in both operational and technical development working towards strengthened early warning systems and climate monitoring capacity. The goal is to see Pacific SIDS improve resilience to climate-related hazards, where SIDS can reduce the likelihood of conflict and lower the risks of natural disasters including climate change.”

He added, “The establishment of a Pacific Based WMO RTC is significant in upscaling training of current and future National Meteorological and Hydrology Service (NMHS) staff from the region, equipped with

knowledge and the capacity to provide quality data for risk informed development.”

Contact information:

Andrea Waqa-Montu, Communications Specialist, RESPAC Project, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji; email: andrea.waqa-montu@undp.org

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