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WMO Takes Action on Storm Surges

WMO21 May 2014: The 5th Meeting of the Coastal Inundation Forecasting Demonstration Project (CIFDP) Steering Group convened to discuss progress made in implementing projects that aim to strengthen flood forecasting and management and build integrated multi-hazard early warning and disaster response platforms. 

The CIFDP has pilot initiatives in Bangladesh, Fiji and Indonesia, with plans to expand to the Caribbean, among other places. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), storm surges kill more people than winds associated with tropical cyclones and earthquake-triggered tsunamis; yet, they are one of the most underestimated, misunderstood natural hazards. Nearly all casualties and economic losses from Hurricane Sandy (2013) and Typhoon Haiyan (2013) were the result of water and waves rather than wind. Such losses are expected to increase due to rising sea levels and growing urban populations in coastal cities.

Bangladesh hopes to benefit from the CIFDP with the establishment of efficient forecasting and warning systems, and the Philippines is expected to learn from Bangladesh's experience. A post-Haiyan assessment team visited the Philippines and Viet Nam in April 2014, and will present its findings to WMO's Executive Council in June. The team called for: clearer communication of risks and impacts; and a more integrated multi-hazard approach to warnings, which have traditionally emphasized wind speed.

Paul Davies, UK's Met Office and assessment team member, underlined that people did not understand what a storm surge was. He also explained that evacuation centers and cyclone shelters must consider the risk of storm surge and coastal inundation, and not be located in areas at risk from floods.

The CIFDP, coordinated by the Joint WMO-Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission's Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology and the WMO Commission for Hydrology, addresses coastal community safety and socioeconomic sustainability through regional coastal inundation forecasting and warning systems.

The meeting took place at WMO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, from 14-16 May 2014. [Meeting Webpage] [WMO Press Release]