Long term climate predictions need to improve

| 24/11/2010

(CNS): Better predictions about the climate change and its likely impact on the regional economy was a key topic of discussion at a recent weather talking shop held in the Cayman Islands. Coordinating Director of the Caribbean Meteorological Organisation (CMO) Tyrone Sutherland explained experts were seeking ways for Caribbean meteorological organizations to provide appropriate and media-friendly climate prediction services to governments and the public. He added that while scientists around the world still debated the effects of climate change on the frequency and intensity of storms, there was regional consensus that climate change and variability had already changed rainfall patterns, increasing flood and drought conditions across the Caribbean.

“Meteorological services must become an integral part of our strategic planning because ignoring the effects of climate change could have dire economic consequences,” he said at the 50th session of the Caribbean Meteorological Council.

WMO’s Secretary-General, Michel Jarraud attended Monday’s official opening to share how the Caribbean can be part of a global framework for climate services. Data gathered by the Mainstreaming Adaptation to Climate Change Project (a UK-funded programme) indicates that surface temperatures in the Arctic have increased by 5Ëš Celsius, causing global sea levels to rise 20 to 30 cm in the 20th century.
Expanding on this, Cayman’s National Weather Service Director General, Fred Sambula revealed that a group of scientists that recently visited as part of a UK Overseas Territories climate change assessment team found surface temperatures in the Caribbean are also rising.
“They further noted that rainfall frequency is declining and patterns changing; this means heavier rainfall over shorter periods of time, causing more flooding,” he said adding that the potential effects of climate change and variability cut across sectors to include areas such as agriculture, health, education, tourism, and construction.
“Warmer temperatures inevitably mean increased energy costs and similarly, a lack of moderate rainfall may affect water resources, and increased flooding may cause more water- and mosquito-borne illnesses, impacting the health sector and requiring additional resources,” Sambula warned.
In the agricultural sector, temperature changes and possible seasonal shifts might lead to changes in planting and harvesting and even crop viability.
Many small island states have economies based on tourism which would not be spared the ravages of climate change,, Sambula said. “Rising sea levels and heavier storm surges may damage beaches, for example, combined with other effects such as coral bleaching. Warmer temperatures may also affect the comfort level of visitors, leading to an expanded demand for investment in this sector.”
He explained that the shift towards climate services represents an effort to assist governments to improve governance through scientific data that will support forward planning and sustainable national development.
“When we look at the potential fallout, meteorologists must move from merely giving short-term weather forecasts, to researching and predicting futureclimate impacts. We must help governments stay ahead of the game,” Sambula stated.

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