Harnessing local weather data for a #WeatherWiser Mindanao
Of the 777 automated weather stations (AWS) deployed by WeatherPhilippines Foundation nationwide, 124 are located in Mindanao. These are either installed at Davao Light and SM sites or priority meteorological sites under the care of partner local government units (LGUs).
However, one community in Mindanao went beyond visiting WeatherPhilippines’ website (weather.com.ph) to check the local weather, and actually used localized weather information for sustainable local development. This community is the coastal municipality of Lebak, Sultan Kudarat.
El Niño and Lebak’s Agriculture
Lebak is a town afflicted by droughts and dry spells brought about by below-average rainfall due to El Niño. “The severity of the drought was threatening the remaining crops serviced by the irrigation systems, as well the fruit trees, coconut and banana, and the high-value crops such as rubber, cacao, coffee, and other plants,” said Myla Cañete, Lebak’s Disaster Risk Reduction Management Officer.
So how did an LGU empower its community to beat the odds against a natural phenomenon that dries up their community livelihood?
Optimizing Weather Data for Cloud-Seeding Initiatives
Through a weather-data-driven collaboration with the regional government, Lebak was able to mitigate the effects caused by El Niño through an aggressive cloud-seeding operation.
“The data generated by our AWS greatly enhanced our capacity to provide the cloud seeding team with an accurate forecast on wind direction and wind speed. The five-day forecast enabled us to closely monitor our skies for ‘seedable’ clouds, and to determine the possibility of rain. The data of our AWS is vital for us to have rains,” she added.
The AWS has also helped the LGU evaluate the success of the project. Rain gauge data provided the estimated amount of rainfall produced by seeding, which is vital for the cloud seeding team to avoid wasting seeding agents.
After months of planning and preparation, the Department of Agriculture reported in February 2016 that the cloud-seeding initiative in Mindanao successfully induced light to moderate downpours in Sultan Kudarat, Cotabato, and Sarangani provinces.
Weather Knowledge for Sustainable Development
In 2014, WeatherPhilippines deployed three AWS in Sultan Kudarat (Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat Capitol, and Lebak) in addition to 224 other priority meteorological sites in the Philippines. This helped LGUs use localized weather forecasts for typhoon preparations.
This year, Lebak’s El Niño experience is just one example of how LGUs are going beyond using weather information for typhoon preparedness, and are now maximizing the tool for sustainable development.