Water and weather-related disasters result in the loss of life and billions of dollars annually, a problem that demands an all-hands-on-deck approach from the broad hydrological and meteorological scientific community in partnership with water and disaster management communities. Collaboration across disciplines is essential in order to develop impactful solutions that support national and local authorities in providing adequate early warning to communities and helping their resilience and recovery in the face of disaster events. In all cases, national and local decision makers are charged with the responsibility of committing resources before, during, and after, and must rely on actionable information to make the best possible decisions. SERVIR seeks to disseminate such information through its different hubs.
A joint development initiative of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), SERVIR works in partnership with leading regional organizations worldwide to help developing countries use information provided by Earth observation satellites and geospatial technologies on key thematic areas of food security and agriculture; water resources and hydro-climatic disasters; land cover/land use change and ecosystems; and weather and climate services. SERVIR Hindu Kush Himalaya (SERVIR-HKH) is implemented by ICIMOD under its Mountain Environment Regional Information System (MENRIS) Regional Programme.
Work carried out by SERVIR with the Applied Science Teams has demonstrated that current flood forecasts can be enhanced by integrating global satellite and modelled data with regional and local forecasts. This supports the work of hydromet agencies and their goal of providing access to timely and relevant information for decision makers. It has produced ongoing medium-range forecasts for every river stretch and accompanying retrospective hindcasts–historical simulations that put the forecasts in context and provide surrogate observational datasets to support and strengthen existing national systems.
Moreover, since global models generally do not capture local meteorological phenomena, regional modelling systems are critical to provide valuable information for early warning on floods and high-impact weather events. In an effort to support national systems, SERVIR has developed a High Impact Weather Assessment Toolkit (HIWAT). This weather forecasting tool is intended to provide additional lead time for forecasting authorities so that local decision makers can prepare for and reduce the impact of high-impact weather events–lightning strikes, damaging winds, hail, and flash floods. HIWAT relies on a mesoscale numerical weather prediction model that is partially informed by NASA satellite observations to provide a probabilistic forecast for extreme weather hazards. Also, HIWAT's forecasted precipitation is routed to predict flooding extents. These regional services are intended to strengthen and support national and local efforts and expertise in developing hydro-meteorological information that allows for investments to enhance decision-making practices.
ICIMOD also hosts the Himalayan GEOSS community activity – a Task Group under Asia Oceania GEO (AOGEO) – focusing on the HKH countries to address the gaps in Earth observation and geospatial technologies in the region. It promotes access to and sharing of data, standards and methodologies, fosters regional cooperation to build complementary efforts to address common issues, and works towards building capacities of individuals and institutions.
In this context, a regional knowledge forum on early warning for floods and high-impact weather events is being organized in Kathmandu by SERVIR-HKH jointly with Himalayan GEOSS and GEO Global Water Sustainability (GEOGLOWS). The forum will promote exchange of knowledge and experiences from SERVIR's work on early warning systems (EWSs) with wider hydromet and disaster management communities. It will also provide a platform for the sharing of learnings from other similar initiatives in the HKH region.
- Deliberate on key areas related to regional and national hydrological and meteorological services for EWSs in South and South East Asia
- Understand ongoing efforts on forecast and EWSs and discuss on issues related to generation, dissemination, and use of EWS
- Demonstrate and discuss the ICT infrastructure and hydroinformatics tools that are enabling widespread usage of Earth observation data in flood early warning and high-impact weather forecasting
- Understand how best to disseminate information effectively at different levels – national governments to communities
- Review and assessment of existing regional and national hydrological and meteorological services for EWSs in South and South East Asia
- Review of current advances in early warning services, Earth observation technologies, and modelling and its relevance to countries in the HKH region
- Identification of gaps and needs for sustained information services at regional and national levels
The knowledge forum will bring together users and producers of information services in the HKH and lower Mekong regions
- Regional, national, and local institutions engaged in providing extreme weather forecasts and flood forecasts and establishing related EWSs
- Professionals and researchers