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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray

1 September 2003

Australia Helping the Pacific Stay Ahead of El Niño

Australia is committed to helping Pacific islands, all too often battered by storms and severe weather, with a special project to improve their seasonal climate forecasting.

Kicked off in Tonga last week, the project will see the Australian Government's Bureau of Meteorology share its climate knowledge and forecasting experience with Pacific islands.

Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Heritage, said the $2.2 million AusAID funded project will help Pacific countries establish or improve what are often life-saving meteorological services.

"Australia has an advanced national meteorological system and is ideally placed to help Pacific countries improve their meteorological services," Dr Stone said.

"The science and technology we use to monitor and predict the variations of Australian climate can be directly applied in the Pacific.

"It's important that small Pacific nations develop their own forecasting capability especially given that some islands are less than one metre above sea level, putting populations at risk.

"Many Pacific countries are particularly vulnerable to storm damage and sea surges as demonstrated by Cyclone Zoe in the Solomon Islands in late December last year.

"The Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology was able to alert the Solomon Islands to the approach of Cyclone Zoe which caused widespread damage to several islands, including destruction of vital infrastructure and water supplies.

"The location and frequency of such storms can be affected by El Niño and La Niña events, so being able to predict these will improve disaster management.

"A better understanding of changing weather patterns associated with El Niño and La Niña will also greatly help local policy makers in areas such as agriculture, forestry, and water management."

The Bureau of Meteorology has a long history of helping to train weather forecasters from other countries. In the past five years, 20 people in the Pacific have trained at the Bureau's headquarters in Melbourne and three people are now weather forecasters in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. This new project will extend training to include seasonal climate forecasting.

This project, titled Enhanced application of climate prediction in Pacific Island countries, aims are:

© Commonwealth of Australia