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Lack of coordination hampers Met Office operations

August 26, 2018

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Met Office staffers monitor weather data and analyse it round the clock.
Met Office staffers monitor weather data and analyse it round the clock.

Although Pakistan is one of the world’s 10 countries most vulnerable to the impact of climate change, the government has done little to strengthen the relevant authorities to face this challenge.

Climate change for Pakistan is mostly related to rising temperatures and rapidly melting glaciers, but the Ministry of Climate Change has a negligible presence in the field and the organisation with expertise in meteorology – the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) – is placed under the aviation ministry.

Avionics is one of the meteorological department’s 10 services – the others include specialised forecasts for farmers called agromet, defence sector information, national weather forecasts for the public, information regarding droughts, floods, earthquakes, cyclones, sea tides and research.

Most of the research conducted by the Met Office – which includes the temperature forecast for the last 10 to 100 years, water scarcity threats and flash flood vulnerabilities – has gone unnoticed, as the climate change ministry is responsible for bringing such studies to the fore and there is limited coordination between the ministry and the PMD.

A radar has been placed on the newly-built Met Office Tower in H-8 which stands at 172 feet. The tower has been built with the assistance of the Japanese government and will become functional in November.
A radar has been placed on the newly-built Met Office Tower in H-8 which stands at 172 feet. The tower has been built with the assistance of the Japanese government and will become functional in November.

“The impact of climate change is visible in the country, and all the threat perceptions have started to show up. We cannot change the world, but adjust ourselves to mitigate the damage from new threats,” Met Office Director General Dr Ghulam Rasool told Dawn.

Most of the equipment used by the Met Office is more than 30 years old; the original suppliers of most of the department’s radar systems and the like have even stopped manufacturing spare parts.

Pakistan Meteorological Department authorities have installed equipment with the support of local suppliers. This equipment, which is being run on trial basis, measures rainfall, humidity, wind speed and direction. It is portable and can easily be shifted to remote Met centres.
Pakistan Meteorological Department authorities have installed equipment with the support of local suppliers. This equipment, which is being run on trial basis, measures rainfall, humidity, wind speed and direction. It is portable and can easily be shifted to remote Met centres.

Because of its old and obsolete systems, the Met Office was unable to detect the 2015 tornado that left more than 44 dead and caused great material damage in time.

However, Japanese aid has provided some relief in the shape of the latest radar systems and other equipment that has been installed in several parts of the country along with interconnected data sharing, which will allow almost all of the country’s meteorological departments and other organisations to detect unusual weather developments.

Pakistan Meteorological Department Director-General Dr Ghulam Rasool analyses data obtained from the latest radar system. — Photos by Mohammad Asim
Pakistan Meteorological Department Director-General Dr Ghulam Rasool analyses data obtained from the latest radar system. — Photos by Mohammad Asim

The first of these radar systems commenced trials in Islamabad and has a range of 450km. Another system has been set up in Lahore, allowing authorities to detect weather developments up to 450km inside India.

New radars in Mangla, Lahore, Multan and Sukkur will help obtain 24-hour up-to-date information on rainfall, wind and thunderstorms, along with their speed and direction. Advanced radars are also been installed in Mardan, Peshawar and along parts of the western border to detect advancing weather systems from Afghanistan, Iran, the Arabian Sea and the north of the country.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2018