By Kim Rahn
Which path did Typhoon Bolaven take is a question being raised following the super storm that hit the peninsula Tuesday.
A local daily said the course of the typhoon announced by the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) was far different from those by foreign weather agencies, raising suspicion that the administration fabricated data to meet its previous forecast.
The KMA, however, denies this, saying the difference comes from variations in technical standards and experts’ interpretation in each country.
The allegation emerged after weather agencies around the world announced the path of Typhoon Bolaven to be northward along the Yellow (West) Sea.
After the typhoon passed, the KMA said the center of the typhoon was at 125.6 degrees east at 9 a.m., 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Tuesday. But the figure was off by about 0.8 to 1 degree from data provided by the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center and the Japan Meteorological Agency. By distance, the difference was between 90 and 120 kilometers.
Quoting a weather expert, the Chosun Ilbo said it was possible for agencies of different countries to make different forecasts for a typhoon’s path, but it was impossible for them to announce the actual path of the typhoon differently after it had passed, especially with the difference being as huge as 1 degree in longitude.
The expert also claimed data from the KMA’s super computer were similar to those at the U.S. and Japanese agencies, and suggested the Korean agency made a false announcement deliberately so that the actual path would meet its forecast.
“The KMA may have wanted to stick to its original forecast which was wrong, under pressure to make an accurate prediction. Maybe the pressure got stronger after President Lee Myung-bak visited the agency on Tuesday to check damage caused by the typhoon,” the expert was quoted as saying.
Regarding the newspaper’s report, the KMA strongly denied it. “The KMA analyzes and forecasts natural phenomena scientifically and professionally. The analysis result is made public through our website and in various reports as well as shared among international organizations. Thus, fabricating data is impossible,” the agency stated on its website.
It said the analysis was based on data collected by satellites. About the difference in longitude between different agencies, the KMA said: “Errors happen when analyzing the location of the center of typhoons based on satellite data. The U.S. agencies also make errors on the location of the center of hurricanes, with the error sometimes being more than 100 kilometers.”
Seoul National University professor Ho Chang-hoi also said an error of some 100 kilometers can occur about the location of a typhoon’s center when the upper part and lower part of the typhoon move differently.
In July 1987, the KMA fabricated the path of Typhoon Thelma in order to cover up its mistake. While the typhoon hit the southern coast, the agency announced it passed via the Korea Strait as it had forecast. The wrong announcement resulted in huge damage to the country, and several KMA senior officials received punitive measures or stepped down at that time.