Weather forecasts save lives in the Himalayas
Cooperation between the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the meteorological departments of Nepal and Bhutan raises the standard of forecasts, making it easier for the inhabitants of the two countries to prepare for the impacts of climate change.
Global climate change is already visible in the Himalayan region. Mountains that used to have a permanent snow cover are now snow-free, and unusual weather events cause both drought and floods.
Climate change is a serious issue for the Himalayan countries. Nepal has the world’s fourth highest vulnerability index for climate change, and Bhutan is also especially vulnerable.
Finland has financed the development of Nepal’s weather observation services by means of the Institutional Cooperation Instrument (ICI) since 2010. The ICI has proved to be a useful form of cooperation among the authorities.
Cooperation between the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology of Nepal began in 2010. It has succeeded in modernising the technology used for producing weather services in Nepal and has developed the personnel’s competence.
The cooperation will continue and will be extended to Bhutan as well.
Farming at the mercy of the weather
Most people in the Himalayan countries earn their living through agriculture. The poorest segment of the population lives in the mountains and suffers the most from climate change.
Many people have already had to move from their farms when farming conditions have deteriorated, or because of landslides and floods. Flood warnings and evacuations can save human lives, but not the crops.
Agriculture based on the meltwaters of snow and ice suffers from climate change also because forecasting for the regular monsoon rains has become increasingly difficult.
Global warming speeds up the melting of the Himalayan glaciers. In consequence, there will be more numerous and larger glacier lakes. Discharge floods are a major risk factor for disasters in both Bhutan and Nepal.
Inadequate data undermine safety
At present, the availability of weather information and forecasts is rather limited in Nepal. The prevention of disasters and the development of warning systems are central issues in Nepal.
The development of weather services is of major importance because about 500 Nepalese people lose their lives in natural disasters every year. Economic damage is estimated to reach about 8 million euros annually.
The equipment and operations of the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology of Nepal do not meet today’s requirements. Nor does the Department work round the clock.
Most airports also have incomplete information on aviation weather. The lack of data is a risk to aviation safety.
In Nepal, as in many other developing countries, government organisations producing weather observation services are not valued enough. They usually have limited resources and technically inadequate equipment. However, climate change has highlighted the need to develop these organisations.
More cooperation by improving weather observation services
Bhutan is among the smallest and most isolated societies in Asia.
Weather conditions in Bhutan are very similar to those in Nepal, but the organisation of weather observation services and technical equipment are generally of a lower standard.
The activities of the Bhutan Department of Hydro-Meteorological Service include measurement services pertaining to weather, the climate, agriculture and water. The principal goal of the new cooperation between the Finnish Meteorological Institute and Bhutan’s authorities is to strengthen the personnel’s capacity. The intention is to enable three-day weather forecasts.
Services are intensified to reduce the harmful effects of climate change and the losses caused by natural disasters.
The purpose is to carry out the ICI projects of Nepal and Bhutan largely in cooperation. This strengthens regional cooperation on weather services. The total budget for the projects is about 1.0 million euros, distributed between the years 2013 and 2015.