Advance warning of storms and cyclones with new technique

June 03, 2002

4 June 2002 - Bali, Indonesia - The catastrophic flooding in Jakarta in February this year could have been predicted nearly 3 weeks in advance with a new technique being developed by Dr Matt Wheeler and colleagues at the Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre in Australia.

The flooding was caused by large waves of air and clouds, so called Madden-Julian Oscillations (MJOs). Using satellite data Dr Wheeler and co-workers are able to predict the occurrence of MJOs, which take about one month to move across the Indian basin and over SE Asia.

"The new technique gives about two weeks more notice than conventional weather forecasting," said Dr Wheeler speaking today at an International Media Roundtable* organised by the major global environmental change programmes during PrepCom4 of the WSSD. As a result scientists will be able to provide storm warnings weeks earlier than is currently possible. The work of Dr Wheeler and his colleagues is contributing to a major international research effort, supported by the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), to better understand global climate variability.

"Extreme climate events such as the droughts and floods experienced recently in Indonesia are part of natural climate variability. Work like Dr Wheeler's supports WCRP's effort to contribute to sustainable development by improving our ability to predict such events in the context of global climate variability and climate change," said Dr David Carson, Director of WCRP.

However, being able to better predict such events is only part of the answer to reducing the impact of storms, warns Dr Wheeler. "We must also make ourselves less vulnerable to the effects of storms by being better prepared when such events occur".

Development of forested areas, the growth of unsustainable megacities and the overdevelopment of the coastal zone are just a few of the issues making countries in SE Asia and elsewhere more vulnerable to climatic events such as MJOs and El Niño. This is a major theme for discussion at the media roundtable in Bali on June 4.
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*Joint Event: ICSU, IGBP, IHDP, WCRP, DIVERSITAS, START

For further information contact:

Dr. Matthew Wheeler (WCRP), Climate Forecasting Group, Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre (BMRC), Melbourne, Australia

Phone: +61 3 9669 4068, Fax:+61 3 9669 4660, e-mail: m.wheeler@bom.gov.au

Press summaries, background papers and speaker biographies are available at http://www.igbp.kva.se/prepcom4/

To register for this event, or to arrange interviews in person or by phone, contact:

Clare Bradshaw, IGBP Science Communicator; clare.bradshaw@igbp.kva.se, mobile +62 817 9710386
Elisabeth Dyck, IHDP Information Officer; elisabeth.dyck@chello.at

1 International Science Roundtable for the Media, Putri Bali Hotel, Nusa Dua, Bali. 10:00 - 15:00 2 The global environmental change programmes are:
IGBP = International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (http://www.igbp.kva.se)
IHDP = International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (http://www.ihdp.org)
WCRP = World Climate Research Programme (http://www.wmo.ch/web/wcrp/wcrp-home.html)
DIVERSITAS = an international programme of biodiversity science (http://www.icsu.org/DIVERSITAS/)
START= Global Change System for Analysis, Research and Training (http://www.start.org)
The sponsor: ICSU = International Council for Science (http://www.icsu.org)

International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme

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