Everyone talks about the weather, but Pacific islanders are now actually doing something about it. Storms, floods, droughts, heat waves, and other weather and climate hazards are responsible for huge numbers of fatalities and severe economic losses. If people are prepared, and warned in time, these losses can be considerably reduced.
Since 2009, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP), with support from Finland, has been doing a great deal to provide countries in the region with information they need to do something about the weather. The FPPICS - Finnish-Pacific Project for Increased Capacity of SPREP and PIC NMS Staff to Meet the Growing Demand for Meteorological and Climatological Information in the Society ran from 2009 to May of 2012 December of 2011.
Now a new project will continue this development cooperation for another four years, beginning in the autumn of 2012: FINPAC - Finnish-Pacific Project to Reduce Vulnerability of the Pacific Island Countries’ Livelihoods to the Effects of Climate Change. SPREP will also receive support in its efforts to coordinate the region’s meteorological services.
In these projects, the Finnish Meteorological Institute works with counterpart institutions in the 14 member states of SPREP: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Salomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
Although island residents can already get general information about regional weather on radio and tv, they would like tailor-made local weather reports to help them in their daily lives. When a SPREP meteorological services project asked schools and local women’s groups about the weather, they asked for reports on the Internet, and ways to get weather information on their smartphones.
Through partnerships between national meteorological institutes and people living in villages, the SPREP meteorological projects can discover how best to provide the knowledge people need to do something about the weather. For example, villages can make plans for the best times to plant and harvest crops, and learn which species will survive bad weather and thrive in local climates.
Obviously fishermen need information about threatening storms, but the SPREP project does more than this. Villagers can get information about what to do to prepare for bad weather, and get help in recovering when the storm is over. In addition, other people who need information about weather and climate are benefitting from the SPREP meteorological projects. Airports and people working in the tourism industry also make use of the improved weather and climate services provided.
Governments in the region can reduce the risks from the weather and from climate change by making disaster risk reduction part of national development plans. SPREP is working with Finnish support to provide information about existing weather and climate hazards and how to prepare for the future. The projects are also striving to increase the resilience of the most vulnerable communities to be able to weather future storms and adapt to climate change.