CENTURY-OLD WEATHER DATA TO BENEFIT SAMOA

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APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, July 28) - A vault containing reports of a hundred years of Samoa’s weather conditions could unlock some keys to its future prosperity, the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) believes.

Several thousand files dating back to the turn of the century are soon to be archived onto a computer database at the National Meteorological Office at Mulinu’u.

Many of the documents inside the German-built Milners vault, have survived cyclones since 1902, when the office was originally set up.

Help rescuing the data is being offered by Australia’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, SPREP said in a news release issued from its headquarters at Vailima.

The institute is excited over the quality of the information and the potential benefits to Samoa and the region from in-depth analysis that is yet to be undertaken.

Dean Solofa, the Met office’s senior climate officer, said:

"We lost some files during Cyclone Ofa, there were documents just flying all over the place. But Samoa’s office is the only one in the region that has never been relocated. Research wise, this means the margin of error is quite small, and in our work, accuracy is what it’s all about."

He said the data would help make better predictions of weather and climate patterns, which could benefit future developments in agriculture and tourism.

Geographically, the Pacific islands are located in an area that is vulnerable to dramatic shifts in weather patterns.

These include cyclones, floods and droughts, often associated with the El Ninõ and La Nina weather phenomena

It is why climate scientists world wide, are desperate for early weather information about the Pacific to help build a clearer picture.

Mark Morrissey, of SPREP, said with increasingly erratic weather conditions, the role of Met services from a social, economic and safety position needs to be given a greater priority.

He said: "The majority of our Pacific islands have minute landmasses, whose people depend on weather sensitive activities like subsistence fishing, agriculture and tourism to put food on the table and to make a dollar.

The need for everyone to have some idea of what’s on the horizon is obvious."

Past generations of Pacific islanders measured weather shifts using some unique methods.

Polynesians for example, understood cockroaches and ants invading their thatched roof ‘fale’ (house) as the barometer for an approaching storm.

They believed that by observing the flight patterns of some birds one could determine fairly accurately where the eye of a cyclone was positioned.

July 29, 2004

Samoa Observer: www.samoaobserver.ws/

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