International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Issue: 13/2006- 12/2006 - 11/2005 - 10/2005 - 9/2004 - 8/2003 - 7/2003 - 6/2002 - 5/2002 - 4/2001- 3/2001

Disasters and hazards in the Region


Experts in meteorology from 26 countries gathered in Costa Rica

Between March 31 and April 5 2005, the Directors of the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services of 26 countries gathered in San Jose, Costa Rica to hold the Fourteenth Session of the Regional Association IV of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which includes North America, Central America and the Caribbean.

During the opening session, Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the WMO stated that "Last year, the region endured one of the most severe tropical storm seasons ever experienced, and had it not been for the global observation and warning systems of the WMO, the loss of lives and infrastructure would have been higher".

He highlighted the important work done by the RA IV Hurricane Committee, in the context of achieving sustainable development in Small Island Development States (SIDS), and in the framework of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR).   He also indicated that one of the most efficient measures for disaster reduction is an early warning system that works adequately and in a timely fashion.

In addition, in the framework of the ISDR and the context of sustainable development in the SIDS, in 2004, the Tropical Cyclone Program (TCP) devoted special efforts to strengthening and enhancing the existing capacities of the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services in terms of improved tropical cyclone forecasting and efficient warnings.

The outgoing Regional President, Arthur Dania, from the Netherlands Antilles, stressed the need for stronger cooperation among the members of the Regional Association IV (RA IV) in order to increase the socioeconomic benefits derived from accurate and timely forecasts of meteorological, hydrological and climate events. Priorities discussed included natural disaster mitigation and prevention, tsunami early warning systems, the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), the implementation of a Regional Climate Center, and the use of weather forecast to improve the current economic and social situation of a number of sectors, such as water, energy, health and tourism.

During the gathering, the members of the RA IV also elected Carlos Fuller, from Belize, and Pablo Manso, from Costa Rica, as their new President and Vice-president, respectively.

In his capacity as the newly elected President, Carlos Fuller stated that "It is worth noting that 90% of natural disasters are of hydro-meteorological origin and, as Directors of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services, we play a pivotal role in reducing the level of vulnerability to hurricanes, floods, and other hazards in our countries, not only through weather forecast but also by disseminating warnings, educating communities and collaborating with those who manage emergencies". The Association also endorsed the initiatives carried out by the International Ocean Commission (UNESCO/IOC) and the WMO, aimed at establishing a coordinated approach to tsunami early warning at the international level, as part of a strategy for addressing multiple hazards.

Directors sponsored a resolution related to the importance of developing a comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), for the world to be able to better predict both climate and weather phenomena, prepare for natural disasters and protect people and their properties. Over time, this system will provide an important scientific basis for making sound policy decisions in all sectors of society, including energy, public health, agriculture and other sectors that contribute to the quality of life and our capacity to cope with natural disasters, including tsunamis.

The launching of a pilot project that focuses on Central America and is being implemented by the Regional Committee for Water Resources (CRRH) - in close collaboration with the National Meteorological Institute of Costa Rica (IMM) and INSIVUMEH in Guatemala- took place on April 6.   This pilot project will focus on data services, research and capacity building. The RA IV Regional Climate Center will enhance the products of the RA IV members, including seasonal and inter-annual forecasts, their verification, and climate analyses. Ultimately, participating countries will benefit from more accurate climate forecasts, particularly regarding El Niño and La Niña events.

The National Meteorological and Hydrological Services in this region are devoted to improving both economic safety and national security through international cooperation, in order to strengthen research on and the forecast of water-, weather- and climate- related phenomena.

For more information please contact:
Mario Sánchez
National Meteorological Institute, Costa Rica