Drought forecast: Budget hits the scope of Pacific's meteorology services

Government-run meteorological divisions from around the Pacific region are finding it difficult to improve their services due to the lack of funding.

The issue was highlighted by the directors of Fiji's Meteorological Service, Misaeli Funaki, and the Solomon Islands Meteorological Services' David Hiriasia, who are both in Samoa to attend the 5th Pacific Meteorological Council meeting this week in Samoa.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Mr. Funaki said that there are a lot of things government forecasters want to do, such as developing new projects, which are not currently achievable due to budget constraints.

“Funding is an obstacle because we are limited to the funding available but we [hoping] to make our science relevant in a way that can benefit our remote communities," he said. 

“The funding used at the moment for Fiji, we are very thankful to have a supportive government towards our development in terms of investments into our area of work."

Mr. Hiriasia also said that funding also presented an issue to services in the Solomons.

“Funding is a common problem faced by meteorological divisions and sometimes we need to have more cyclones to be recognized by the policy makers.

“For us, we have too many remote islands and those are the vulnerable communities in terms of the weather and getting the message to them,” he said.

The Fiji Meteorological Service Director said that the Meteorological Council meeting is an opportunity for his country to meet with other regional colleagues and discover their progress nationally and as a region.

“There is a Meteorological Strategy - it is a strategy that is developed for how the met in the Pacific has to progress from 2016-2027.

“In those strategies it outlined the priority areas so for meetings like these it allows us a community and as a whole to report individually how we are based on the priorities that are set out to achieve in the strategic area.

“It will also give us a chance to learn and to exchange knowledge on what we are find best practices amongst our peers and the relevant countries to adopt and move forward,” he added.

Mr. Funaki said that some of these priorities include: multi- hazard early systems, improvements to public weather services, including for aviation industries and provision of bulletins to maritime areas and for the general public and a better communication of science more generally. 

“Our science is a technical field and area, we are trying to find a way or best practices that allows us to reach vulnerable and remote communities," he said.

“We want to relay our messages in a way the communities can understand and know what to do – it is a regional issue and globally."

When asked about his perspective on the causes of a lack of senior directors in meteorological services across the Pacific region, Mr. Funaki said that, in Fiji, the number of women in the weather division had increased by between 10 to 20 per cent but a gap remained. 

Mr. Hiriasia said that, for the Solomon Islands, the meeting is a chance to network and look at future opportunities to develop their national meteorological service.

“In meteorology the experience back home in the Solomon Islands, there are not many female scientists," he said.  

"To do specialised meteorology,you need to have a science background but it’s changing now but we have come a long way, and more needs to be done.”

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