Several new weather and climate monitoring systems have been installed to improve the early warning systems of Vanuatu – a small island country located in the South Pacific Ocean which is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters.
The Climate Information Services for Resilient Development in Vanuatu Project, known by its local Bislama acronym VanKIRAP, has recently installed new climate monitoring equipment the northern island of Espiritu Santo to provide climate information and early warning of severe weather events. A new automated weather station (AWS) has also been installed at the Vanuatu Agricultural Research and Training Centre in Luganville, while two automatic rainfall gauges (ARG) were installed at the villages of Vunaspef and Sarakata Hydro.
The installations were carried out by technicians from the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department (VMGD) and New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Studies (NIWA).
Jino Moli, VanKIRAP’s electronics engineer, said that the new installations provide a significant upgrade to Vanuatu’s existing climate observation and early warning systems: “The AWS replaces manual weather stations and provides more timely information. Before, weather observers would have to take daily observations and relay this information manually to VMGD’s headquarters in Port Vila via UHF radio or telephone.
“Each of the new devices is equipped with three communication options — a Vanuatu government wireless broadband modem, a cellular phone connection and a satellite transmitter. They mostly use the cellular phone network to transmit their data, but in places where there is no phone network or if the network goes down, they use the satellite connection. Thanks to the new equipment, it is now possible to monitor the weather directly in these locations 24/7, no matter the conditions.”
According to Moli, the new equipment is a major advance for Espiritu Santo because “the new AWS and ARGs are an early warning system, which is important because it helps people make better planning decisions about building infrastructure, water usage and transportation”.
Most importantly, he said, the ARGs and AWS provide automated early warning notifications that help the communities at each installation location prepare for natural disasters that might affect their livelihoods.
VanKIRAP will install six more ARGs and seven AWSs on different islands of Vanuatu during 2023. The next AWS installation will take place on Lajmoli, on the remote west coast of Espiritu Santo island, later in February.
As part of the installation, NIWA also provided training for VMGD technicians on monitoring, sensor testing, troubleshooting, and communication and datalogging configurations.
VanKIRAP’s funding support for the installations and training was made possible through the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and was coordinated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in collaboration with VMGD.