A How-to-guide for Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems

The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that if average global temperatures rise to 2°C, developing countries will be the hardest hit – with damages between $70 billion to $100 billion every year until 2050 (Neufeldt 2018). These damages are largely due to increased exposure to natural hazards, causing substantial risk to communities, ongoing contamination of water sources, exposure to diseases, and lack of water supply long after the weather system has passed. Cyclonic winds can damage housing and infrastructure, floods and tidal surges inundate tube-wells and contaminate water supplies, and saturated soils can collapse low lying latrines. The results can range from displaced households that will require new shelter, to uninhabitable communities due to the loss of access to shelter, power, water, or sanitation.

Adaptation of extreme weather infrastructure is expensive, with works often prioritised and delivered to the available budget. For budget-restrained countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) throughout the Indo-Pacific this often means many communities will remain within extreme weather hazard zones. An alternative to infrastructure upgrades is the implementation of a Multi Hazard Early Warning System (MHEWS). This provides a proactive capability for mitigation at the local and community level, providing a trigger for proactive management before, during and after a natural hazard.

One of the seven global targets set by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 is to increase the availability and access to MHEWS. This goal provides a cost-effective approach to offer some mitigation to extreme weather, based on the ability to make earlier decisions.

In order for a MHEWS to be cost effective and suitable in a small-island developing state, freely available datasets are sourced, which include:

  • Observed rainfall from the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM)

  • Rainfall, Temperature, Soil Moisture, Wind forecasts and more from the Global Forecast System (GFS)

  • Global cyclone forecasts from the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC)

  • Wave forecasts from the NOAA Wavewatch3 model

By utilising freely available datasets it is expected that MHEWS can be developed for a wider range of remote, regional, or developing areas, to substantially mitigate their ongoing exposure to extreme weather.

Precipitation forecast from the Global Forecast System within a MHEWS developed by JBP.

Precipitation forecast from the Global Forecast System within a MHEWS developed by JBP.

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