WMO is rolling out marine services training courses to strengthen impact-based forecasts and marine and coastal hazard early warnings, thus contributing to the new UN Early Warnings for All initiative.
From 27 September to 5 October, a face-to-face training session was held in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, hosted by the Cook Islands Meteorological Service and attended by 19 participants from Pacific Islands. It followed online training sessions.
“We are the largest region of WMO but most of it is ocean and we have the least number of Members. So, you can imagine the work we do has a lot to do with maritime and challenges of being dispersed among many islands where countries are locked by the ocean,“ said 'Ofa FA'ANUNU, President of Regional Association V (Asia-Pacific) and the Permanent Representative of Tonga to WMO.
“So, this training here is much more important to us than any of other regions in the world in terms of developing the capacity of forecasters to deal with ocean events better with climate change happening. With more intense extreme weather events, it is very important that there are skills to detect the event early,” he said.
In additional to impacts from tropical cyclones and rising sea levels, Pacific islands also face other hazards. For instance, a powerful volcanic eruption in Tonga in January 2022 triggered a tsunami affecting Tonga, Fiji, American Samoa, Vanuatu and along the Pacific rim, causing a number of casualties and massive devastation. The huge volcanic ash clouds impacted shipping and aviation, and an ensuing oil spill necessitated an environmental emergency response.
Mr FA’ANUNU led a session on the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha'apai volcanic eruption and its impacts, including how the NMHS handled the response for marine services, including the tsunami. WMO also used the opportunity to launch a new tsunami training video that explains the role of meteorological services and WMO in tsunami warnings.
WMO will use feedback and recommendations from the online courses to adapt and improve the Course in order to better address regional needs.
“This Course is the outcome of work that started eight or nine years ago. It didn’t start overnight. The way we came through is appreciation among partners with different capability of forecasting and the way we can complement each other with the daily tasks we assist and sustain as the mandate of the Met Service to convey early warnings for safety of communities,” said Arona Ngari, Permanent Representative of the Cook Islands and Chair of the Pacific Meteorological Council's Panel on Education, Training and Research.
The blended online and face-to-face course has been developed by the WMO marine services division and the education and training office to strengthen capacity in providing client-oriented services, including impact-based forecasting services, and of incorporating multi-hazard early warning services (MHEWS) into operations.
It is being rolled out in several regions in two phases. The online (Phase I) of the Course has been carried since 2019, strengthening regional and international marine networks around the world and has been completed in South America, Caribbean, Pacific Islands and currently in Africa (English speaking). Arabic and French speaking to roll out next year.
The face-to-face session in the Cook Islands followed an online course in 2021 and August 2022, which highlighted the need for further training on marine competencies especially on technical areas of marine forecasting including coastal inundation, ocean forecasting and impact-based forecasting.
Experts from the Bureau of Meteorology, New Zealand Met Service and Pacific International Training Desk led sessions on marine coordination and WMO’s severe weather forecasting programme. Tropical Cyclone Forecasters from WMO’s Regional Specialized Meteorological Center Nadi (Fiji) presented on lessons learned from severe tropical cyclone Harold which affected many countries in the Pacific in 2020.
The interactive session included role play and interactions with marine users including the Harbor Master and a representative from Tourism Cook Islands. It underlined the importance of continuous collaboration with other agencies and meteorological services in the region and communicating with the stakeholders.
The WMO Marine Services Course is a registered activity of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021 to 2030).
More materials and information on the Marine Services Course can be found here.