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08 October 2008

What is the S.A Weather and Disaster Information Service?


Introduction

The Southern Cape Area is still trying to recover from the catastrophic floods that hit the region in November 2007, and again it was battered by very high seas and strong wind over the weekend of the 31 August - 2 September 2008. A Cape Town University study revealed recently that disasters are likely to occur again and Disaster Management of the respected areas and other parts of the country are warned to get ready. These sudden storms from which we are still struggling to recover, are no longer a rare occurrence, but a given reality that is due to continue. These storms are not just limited to the Southern Cape Area, but stretch over various parts of South Africa. With the summer stormy season approaching the gathering of real time weather and disaster data, photos and information are essential.

I believe that the general public, radio amateurs and HAMNET members can play and important roll in being the eyes and ears in reporting real time weather and disaster information. As a service to our country and communities, a few interested people amongst them radio amateurs and HAMNET members have decided to start the S.A. Weather and Disaster Information Service.(S.A.W.D.I.S)

The formation of this service directly stems from the fact that very little weather, storm or disaster statistics or for that matter none are readily available. This situation can be attributed to a lack of relevant systems of observations, communication, information transfer and storage as well as education and administration, while the uneducated population in rural areas of our country is also a pertinent factor.

The service will assist with:

1. Observations
2. Communications
3. Information transfer and storage
4. Education and Administration
5. Early warning systems

Realizing the need to improve the quality and quantity of surface observations relating to weather forecasts and climate predictions in South Africa, the S.A. Weather and Disaster Information Service.(S.A.W.D.I.S) proposed a pilot project in October 2008 that seeks to utilize the existing network of amateur radio operators and private weather stations operators to improve the reporting of meteorological observations. Currently un-sponsored the overall objective of the SAWDIS is to create a cooperative weather and disaster observer network to help the provinces and regions in South Africa to better prepare for drastic climate changes and natural disasters. Areas have been identified throughout South Africa, to erect weather stations and the implementation of the project will commence as soon as sponsors are found for the weather stations.

Background

While most people in industrialized countries take access to weather and disaster information for granted, in the developing world such access can make the difference between famine and feast. Moreover, for many less developed countries, most of which rely on agriculture for subsistence, meteorological and climatological information is essential for economic and social development. In the information age, it is essential that all societies the world over have equitable and timely access to information about climate change. However, one of the key challenges facing the SAWDIS is the ability to harness the power of information and communication technologies – specifically electronic media systems such as broadcasting – to disseminate relevant information to the public in remote and rural areas. The lack of a early warning system is one of the factors that is of great concern to the SAWDIS. The SAWDIS envisage to assist underdeveloped societies by means of amateur radio, commercial radio, the Internet and satellite systems in growing a vast network of grassroots weather and disaster observers. By using the Internet, Commercial Radio and Amateur Radio information can effectively be exchanged. Not only does roll players help bridge the knowledge gap between less developed regions and their more affluent counterparts, but it is also an important source for promoting improved science methodologies and interpretability of weather and disaster observations at grassroots level.

How does it work?

At the core of SAWDIS efforts to improve information and knowledge sharing between all the role players is the APRS RF and Internet Protocol-based global system. APRS consists of a combination of point-to-point, point-to-multipoint and multipoint-to-point networks that transfer weather-related information throughout the world. Connected via a comprehensive network of terrestrial and satellite links, APRS serves as the backbone of a meteorological network. At the core of the SAWDIS is the main telecommunications network, which is the global interconnection link between Internet APRS Servers, Internet IGATES, HF RF IGATES. At the local level, SAWDIS rely on amateur radio operators (HAMS) and their aperture terminals connection links to feed information into and receive critical data from the APRS/Internet Servers and HF/VHF/UHF networks

By connecting APRS Weather Services throughout the world via the Internet, APRS helps to ensure that real-time information sharing. However, many areas in South Africa lack the necessary infrastructure and knowledge to benefit from the globally connected network for weather- and disaster-related data and climate prediction information. Using existing amateur radio networks and local level broadcasting systems, the SAWDIS hopes to keep marginalized communities better informed.

Implementation

The proposal for South Africa seeks the help of amateur radio operators, HAMNET members and other private citizens around the country to volunteer the use of their weather and disaster data for education, research and use by interested parties. Hereby they will become grassroots weather and disaster observers and render a valuable service to their community and the country. Given the lack of indigenous knowledge about weather and disaster observation and climate prediction, the SAWDIS works with its permanent representatives in each province to help these observers to develop the requisite meteorological skills to participate in the growing surface weather and disaster observation network. Gauging from the existing APRS Weather Stations in South Africa 9 APRS weather stations are currently active as a grassroots-observing network. The SAWDIS project promises to significantly enhance the countries’ ability to predict climate changes.

In South Africa, for instance, it is expected that several other weather stations, weather and disaster observers and weather watchers will join the observing network. The SAWDIS hereby invite weather and disaster observers, schools, colleges, universities to join this project even if you do not have a commercial weather station or disaster experience as this is not a prerequisite to participate. Don’t let the lack of a commercial weather station or disaster knowledge deter you from contributing your data to the service. The SAWDIS need your measurements, observations, photo’s, videos, emails, SMS’s and general support.

The urgent need exist for weather and disaster observers (amateur radio, members of the public, HAMNET) to assist the SAWDIS to render a public service. The SAWDIS is looking for weather and disaster observers in any area of the country. The SAWDIS envisage to have weather and disaster observers strategically positioned throughout the country in future to ensure the most effective distribution of meteorological and disaster information. Similar to the other projects, the SAWDIS would closely monitor the quantity and quality of the data submitted by weather and disaster observers, thus ensuring the accuracy of information.

The pilot project proposed for South Africa is designed to help national and regional roll players to prepare for extreme weather events and possible disasters well in advance. The project seeks to significantly improve long-range and real time observations, while enhancing the capabilities of the following organizations: SA Weather Services. Global Weather Services, HAMNET, Search and Rescue, Working on Fire, Aeronautical Search and Rescue, National Sea Rescue Institute, S.A. Maritime Net, Disaster Management and Emergency Services and any other organization that can use the data for non profit use.

Now is the time to render a service to your local community and this beautiful country, South Africa. The SAWDIS need your support!

Further information available at:

http://saweatherobserver.blogspot.com

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed. It’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

Author:

Johan Terblanche

Founder: S.A. Weather and Disaster Information Service

South Africa

Email: sawois05@gmail.com

Blog: http://saweatherobserver.blogspot.com

22 October 2008