Authorities find difficulty keeping pace with storms

By Liu Weifeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-08-14 07:15

When unexpected rainstorms pour down on unprepared people, the results could be disastrous.

Rainstorm-triggered tragedies have been rife this summer, and casualty reports have surfaced from virtually every place hit by a serious storm.

He Lifu, chief weather forecaster at the China National Observatory (CNO), told China Daily that predicting rainstorms remained a challenge both at home and abroad.

He said the forecast accuracy for rainstorms in China is about 12 percent.

"That means only 12 out of every 100 rainstorms is foreseeable," he said.

"So many unpredictable factors contribute to the form of each rainstorm that it can be hard to measure time, place, frequency and scale," he said.

Rainstorms seldom send out visible signals on the monitoring map, he added.

In addition, none of the currently available weather monitoring equipment is capable of predicting an approaching storm with 100-percent accuracy.

There are still some places in China, particularly in the West and Northwest, that are not covered by weather radars.

The United States, which leads many countries in terms of its ability to predict storms thanks to a well-distributed radar network, has only 20 percent accuracy in predicting the weather, statistics from the CNO show.

The rainstorm forecasting accuracy ranges from 15 percent to 20 percent in Japan, Europe and Australia.

"Improving accuracy is a common concern in the world," He said, noting the large number of rainstorm-triggered floods, land slides and mud flows that have occurred across the world this summer.

When it comes to facing a volatile rainstorm, the readiness of the people is a crucial part of minimizing losses.

During a rainstorm in Jinan on July 18, many people were caught unprepared by a sudden urban flood, which claimed 31 lives and injured nearly 200 residents.

"Informing the public, the sooner the better, and by all possible means, is a key concern," He said.

The country's weather authorities have drawn up regulations governing the transmission of disaster warning signals to better deal with the extreme weather.

Sending warning signals and organizing relief work are to be used to judge the performance of weather officials.

Wang Bangzhong, deputy director of the weather forecasting and disaster mitigation department under the China Meteorological Administration, said: "In the fight against extreme weather, we aim to send out warning signals faster than the effects of a disaster can spread."

(China Daily 08/14/2007 page3)

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