Saving Lives through Accurate and Speedy Typhoon Forecasting
By: steph, June 25, 2010

Saving Lives through Accurate and Speedy Typhoon ForecastingAn average of twenty (20) typhoons hit the Philippines every year, causing flash floods and landslides that result in deaths, home devastations and stagnation of commerce. Weather is indeed unpredictable, but a lot of things can be accomplished if local authorities have enough time to prepare. Sufficient preparation mainly depends on accurate and speedy forecasts – a need in typhoon-prone areas like the Philippine archipelago – which can be obtained through high-speed networks.

In order to sustain this need, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) uses the essential linkage provided by the Philippine Research, Education and Government Information Network (PREGINET) and the Trans-Eurasia Information Network 3 (TEIN3), the Asia-Pacific counterpart of GÉANT.

PAGASA partners with the Deutscher Wetter Deinst (DWD), the weather bureau of Germany, in order to get data and run its forecasting models. The collaboration between the two meteorological agencies relies on the link provided by PREGINET and TEIN3.

PAGASA’s utilization of these two high-capacity networks enables fast acquisition of large amount of data from DWD and one-hour processing of forecast results. These fast and timely forecasts prepare the local emergency disaster units, as well as the citizens and help mitigate the adverse effects brought by typhoons.

“We cooperate with the DWD and have access to the enormous power of their supercomputers to run our weather prediction models. This is an expense that we would find it difficult to manage on our own and it is only a viable method because TEIN3, GÉANT and PREGINET, together, provide an absolutely stable and predictable method for transferring the data we need,” said Hydrometeorological Division Officer-in-Charge Alan Pineda.

The past and the present

The deadliest tropical cyclone in the Philippine history is the Typhoon Uring on November 1991 that killed more than 6,000 people and destroyed almost 10,000 homes as it crossed the country. Ormoc City was the hardest hit area of Uring wherein the highest rate of death tolls occurred. Three-fourth (¾) of the city was devastated.

After eighteen (18) years, a much stronger typhoon approached the country. Typhoon Emong with winds up to 140 km/h, hit the town of Bolinao, Pangasinan in May 2009. Despite of its alarming strength, Emong caused only 60 deaths – a far lesser number of casualties than Uring caused.

Before Emong reached Bolinao, the local disaster coordinating council had been issuing SMS, moving the locales to evacuation centers, positioning heavy equipment for rescue and stockpiling food. The early alerts brought by PAGASA reduced the number of casualties from the storm.

“PAGASA saved lives – it’s as simple as that. We were no match for Emong – it was far too strong. All we could do was move people out of its path and get rescue teams ready to deal with whatever it threw at us,” said Bolinao Mayor Alfonso Celeste (With reports from a TEIN3 Case Study).