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Cyclone Larry A Timely Reminder

22-Mar-2006

Cyclone Larry A Timely Reminder

The recent damaging wind and rain from Cyclone Larry in north Queensland serves as a timely reminder to New Zealanders to always be prepared to cope following a major disaster - whether it be storm, flood, earthquake, pandemic or other calamity.

Thursday 23 March is dubbed World Meteorological Day by the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO). This year the theme is 'Preventing and mitigating natural disasters'. This choice is made in recognition of the fact that 90 per cent of all natural hazards are related to weather, climate and water.

Michel Jarraud, the Secretary-General of WMO, marked World Met Day 2006 by pointing out that during the decade ending 2001, natural disasters worldwide were linked to more than 622,000 deaths and affected over two billion people. Economic losses from weather disasters were estimated at US$446 billion. 2005 brought the largest financial losses ever as a result of weather-related natural disasters.

"The past year has brought prolonged droughts to the Greater Horn of Africa and parts of Europe and Asia, Australia and Brazil," said Mr.Jarraud. "There were also a record number of devastating hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean."

So far the South Pacifc Ocean season has produced seven named cyclones. None yet have taken a track towards New Zealand. The season started off with the Pacific neither having a LA NINA nor an EL NINO, but there are now signs of a LA NINA. The forecast for the total number of tropical cyclones remains at around nine, so there is still time for one to form and visit New Zealand.

An increase in the frequency of extreme weather is consistent with the output of various climate change models. Briefly, the main problem seems to be that while sea and land shows signs of warming, the stratosphere shows signs of cooling due to a drop in ozone levels. This is making the weather more unstable, and allowing clouds to grow taller and thus deliver more rain.

"New Zealand is a member of WMO," explained MetService Weather Ambassador, Bob McDavitt. "MetService is New Zealand's official National Weather Service authorised by the Minister of Transport. Weather warnings and forecasts issued by MetService are prepared by forecasters who have been trained to WMO standards. MetService is doing its bit to help WMO in its priority to mitigate natural disasters by taking the initiative to produce severe weather outlook maps and severe thunderstorm outlook maps and display these on our website."

The best form of mitigation is preparation. Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management Director John Norton says that everyone should have a plan. "Everyone should have an emergency kit with at least three days of food and three days of water - that's three litres of water per person per day."

ENDS

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