Earth Today | Shanghai Met Service: Making data generation, sharing a priority
With some 34 departments - 24 of them operational, 10 administrative and most, if not all, data-driven - China's Shanghai Meteorological Service is a study in the use of information science for cutting-edge weather forecasting and climate-change readiness.
A group of developing country professionals - among them engineers, educators, scientists as well as media and communications professionals - were last Friday provided with a window into its operations.
This was part of a study tour for the 'Climate Change and Climate Information Service for the Developing World' seminar, hosted by Nanjing University for Information Science and Technology (NIUST) this month.
"The Shanghai Met Service functions as the East Regional Meteorological Centre of the China Meteorological Administration, and endeavours to protect peoples' lives and properties through providing impact-based forecasts and risk-based warnings to the government, general public and special users," Wuyun Qiqige, officer in charge of foreign affairs at Shanghai Met Service, told The Gleaner in writing.
Among the 24 operational departments at the Met Service are the Shanghai Observatory, the Shanghai Typhoon Institute and the Shanghai Climate Centre.
All together, the Met Service is manned by some 1,000 individuals and is well appointed with equipment intended to provide real-time data and information to team members, who then work to ensure it is transmitted to the public and other stakeholders.
The visiting developing country professionals - drawn from countries including Botswana, Ethiopia, Grenada, Jamaica, Malawi, Panama, and South Sudan - were impressed.
"The Shanghai Meteorological Bureau is very well organised. Their forecast system is very modern and up to date. Their forecast is much better than that of other countries, especially developing countries," said Mulugeta Genanu Kebede, lecturer and head of the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology at Arba Minch University in Ethiopia.
"They are predicting their weather and climate conditions with better accuracy ,and they are also providing that weather and climate information service to the general public through familiar and better means of communications," the lecturer added.
FAMILIAR, BETTER COMMUNICATIONS
Those "familiar and better means of communications" include social media, from where members of the public increasingly consume their information.
Other participants were left wanting more from the visit.
"It was a new experience for me to see such a vast place that is responsible for climate services," noted Samuel Baraba, deputy director for forest conservation and carbon trade at the Directorate of Climate Change and Meteorology, Ministry of Environment and Forestry in South Sudan.
"In fact, we would appreciate if we were given practical experience in that place. We were shown the whole meteorological slides (and given the tour), but we need to do it practically," he said.
The seminar, meanwhile, has seen the more than 30 participants exposed to a variety of climate change information that is intended to inform their work in their home countries.
Included in that information is an introduction to climatology; the physical science fundamentals of climate change; climate change impacts, adaptation and mitigation; and the monitoring, assessment and service of climactic resources.
The education in those areas have been complemented by not only the study tour to the Shanghai Meteorological Service, but also a visit to Canadian Solar Inc in Suzhou.
That visit, too, made an impression on participants.
"I was familiar with Canadian Solar and some of their earlier products before visiting the manufacturing plant; this visit was an opportunity to learn more about their current market strategy and future product line," said Evan Hubbard, deputy head of the department of engineering at the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) where there is a solar plant.
"I was reassured to see a strong focus on quality, including international certifications in environmental health and safety, quality and product testing. This is very important to solar projects in Jamaica, as running costs - from maintenance to repair and replacement of panels - are kept to a minimum," added the electrical engineer.
"At CMI, we will incorporate some of what we have learnt into the relevant courses in our curriculum and use the information to inform future alternative energy projects," Hubbard, who is participating in the seminar with colleague Kahuina Miller - a mechanical engineer and himself a lecturer at CMI - said further.