ECONOMYNEXT – Improved climate forecasts are helping Sri Lanka’s economy across a wide range of sectors, from farming to health and electricity generation, the head of the Department of Meteorology said.
“The science behind the Asian summer monsoon is quite complex and as such prediction of monsoons is still considered a difficult task,” Director General of Meteorology Lalith Chandrapala said.
But the last few decades have seen remarkable advances in climate change forecasts, giving forecasters more lead time mainly in forecasting rainfall strength and patterns, he told the 8th South Asian Climate Outlook Forum in Colombo.
The forum aims to provide a consensus seasonal climate outlook for the Asian summer monsoon and help scientists in the region to make better use of climate information.
The southwest monsoon, which accounts for 70-80 percent of annual rainfall in most countries of South Asia, is a key driver of socio-economic development and well-being.
“The situation is not different in Sri Lanka,” said S. S. Miyanawala, secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management.
“In the south-west part of Sri Lanka, 60-70 percent of annual rainfall is received in the five months of the south-west monsoon season, demonstrating the importance of south-west monsoon rains for all South Asian countries.”
South Asia is the world’s most densely-populated region and is regularly hit by devastating flooding and damaging droughts that disrupt agriculture and industry.
“Last year, we predicted below normal rain in the south-west monsoon enabling the agriculture department to advise farmers to plant short duration rice varieties and managed to get a good harvest,” Chandrapala told EconomyNext.com
Climate forecasting was different from weather forecasting, which is confined to 6-7 days, and is usually done for the season ahead with the forecast expected to be given by the forum valid till September this year.
Forecasts enable the Met department to advise users like the Ceylon Electricity Board to expect more or less rain and plan accordingly, Chandrapala said.
Forecasts are useful in others sectors too such as the health sector where vector-borne diseases like mosquito-borne infections such as dengue are linked to rainfall distribution, he said.