A Weather Eye on Change

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Eewa… While all of us for the last three months were looking up to the heavens to see where our rains come from, we must now start saying thank you for blue skies as well. Remember the hit song, “I can see clearly now the rain is gone”? Well, yesterday it was another story when I was awoken by thunder and the rain that followed. This year, we are celebrating The Year of Planet Earth and everything that goes with it. World Water Day, World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought as well as hydrologists having several workshops and then World Meteorological Day which was also celebrated last week this time around. We live in confused times. Over the period of 1992-2001, weather and climate related disasters killed more than half a million people, affected more than two billion, left millions homeless, devastated arable land and spread disease. Think back four weeks ago when the town of Mariental was flooded and a big portion of agricultural land destroyed. Walvis Bay recorded cases of diarrhoea. All this was water related. The weatherman predicted heavy rains were on the way but who listens, who prepares until the sx&t hits the fan. Such events are increasing. From the many books I have read, I understood that the number of weather related disasters has increased three-fold over the past three years. Though not many of us might see it that way, the job meteorologists do is worth praising. Keeping track of global warming, rising sea level, air and water pollution, extreme weather events and other processes and related issues facing the world is necessasary for achieving sustainable development. While no one can control the weather, as Dr Vaino Shivute some time ago said, accurate observations and predictions with a higher level of accuracy and enough time could radically improve people’s chances in relative safety, building more comfortable lives and protecting precious natural resources effectively. Their systems for observing weather, climate, and the chemical composition of the atmosphere and water resources provide a vital global service for forecasting, prediction and research. Although not all these instruments they use are new, still they cope with what is at their disposal. The mechanisms they have put in place for the exchange of data and the application of those data in agriculture, water resource management, energy use and other socio-economic areas, and environmental protection are invaluable for all countries. Especially developing nations, who are striving to build up their capacity. Who can forget the Tsunami of two years ago? The weather brought by El Nino events is often so extreme that its predictions are now a top priority around the world. Careful monitoring of the sea surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean enables predictions of El Nino and La Nina events and their impacts on all parts of the world up to several months ahead. Thanks to the people like Jennifer, Odilo and many others the world over who at least can tell us in advance what the weather holds for us. By the way, is the winter going to be severe or can we still wear short sleeves? Tell me, Mr Weatherman. Eeewa!