Posted : 2012-04-02 18:33
Updated : 2012-04-02 18:33

Korea Meteorological Administration promoting global weather forecast skills

Mary Power
WMO official expects Korea's expertise to help build energy efficient future

By Yi Whan-woo

With the growing global awareness of the need for accurate weather forecasts, Korea is emerging as a major player in sharing expertise and technology with other countries.

The extension of such support meets the basic goal of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a U.N. environmental agency that observes the behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere to protect life and property.

The Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA), a WMO member, has been offering services since the early 2000s to countries in Asia and Africa.

“I would say that KMA is now in the top 10 globally in terms of the services they offer, and their expertise, and their technology,” said Mary Power, director of the Resource Mobilization Office at the WMO, during an interview at the KMA headquarters in Dongjak, Seoul.

The services include support in building meteorological infrastructure, establishing a satellite receiver system network in Sri Lanka, and setting up an early warning system in the Philippines to reduce the risk of flash floods. The KMA is also in collaboration with African nations such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia and Sudan for more accurate climate prediction.

The WMO consists of 189 government-level weather service organizations. While each member is required to share data with others, Power underscored the KMA’s contribution in the past decade.

“It would seem to me that the KMA developed quite well, and quite rapidly, in the last 10 to 15 years,” she said. “And it’s certainly on a level with other top countries such as the U.S., U.K, France and Europe. So it’s quite a strong player in the WMO network.”

The KMA’s prowess is attributed to its competence in three aspects, observation, simulation of numerical models using a super computer, and predictability — all the elements required for accurate weather forecasts.

For instance, the country launched its first-ever weather satellite, Chollian, in June, 2010, to become the seventh country in the world to have an independent weather observation system from space. The satellite provides data to 30 nations across Asia and the Pacific, including Mongolia and the Philippines, since it became operational on April 1, 2011.

The collected data are used for running simulations using a super computer, which calculates a number of possibilities for weather forecasts.

Korea is one of only 13 countries that have such numerical predictability models. Of course, such cutting edge-technology is meaningless without the skills of human analysts based on their experience.

“That’s why we also give training on interpretation and analysis when we support other countries in terms of infrastructure,” a KMA official said.

The overall accuracy of the KMA’s weather predictability hovers around 90 percent, according to the official.

The WMO director said such accuracy falls in the range of the average among the world’s meteorological expert countries, which boast of around 90 to 95 percent.

She expects Korea’s sharing of such expertise within the world’s meteorological community will help fulfill this year’s theme of the WMO; “Powering our future with weather, climate and water.”

This focuses on evolving into an energy-efficient future and the use of green energy such as wind, waves and solar power.

“Clearly, to utilize the maximum efficiency of these new sources of energy requires very detailed knowledge at the national level. You have to know about climate, and weather patterns,” the director said.

She said the KMA has been supporting other countries to modernize their meteorological services.

“As you know, the KMA is working in Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Mongolia, and they’re working with us in Africa,” she said. “So all of this work, that sharing of expertise and technology from Korea is very critical in improving services across the globe, and helping countries to take advantage of this new technology is quite important.”

The WMO was the child of the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), and it became the specialized agency of the United Nations on March 23, 1951. The member nations — including Korea, which joined the organization on Feb. 15, 1956 — celebrate the day annually.
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