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Meteorologists Ill-equipped to Forecast Bad Weather

Authorities were unable to accurately predict the recent weather conditions due to lack of equipment and an adequate forecast model, the national meteorological agency has said.

"We underestimated the duration and severity of the weather and failed to pre-evaluate its impact on transport and the power sector," China Meteorological Administration (CMA) spokeswoman Jiao Meiyan said.

The CMA had forecast all five rain and snowstorms between January 10 and February 5 two to five days in advance. But it failed to alert the public to the extreme danger of the storms.

"One reason why the weather department could not make precise forecasts is because many of the places most affected were located in mountainous areas where meteorological monitors are in short supply," Duan Yihong, deputy director of the National Meteorological Center, said.

"Another major problem is that China's numerical weather forecasts still fall far behind world standards."

Numerical weather forecasts, based on calculations by high-performance computers, are a core part of modern weather bulletins. China began to develop its own numerical forecast model less than a decade ago.

There is a 10-year gap between the Chinese model and advanced foreign models, Duan said.

The extreme weather also made it a huge challenge for Chinese meteorologists.

"It was increasingly difficult to forecast as low-probability extreme weather is occurring more frequently," Qiao Lin, chief weather forecaster of the Central Meteorological Station, said.

To enhance the country's defense against extreme weather, China will begin to establish a monitoring and warning system, Jiao said.

(China Daily February 15, 2008)

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