President Benigno Aquino will activate this morning a national forecasting system for rains, typhoons, floods – and more. All in response to extreme weather events.
Called the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards, or NOAH, it will advice the President of the risks associated with natural hazards.
“NOAH is an example of what Information Technology can do,” said Science Secretary Mario G. Montejo. “We will know where it will rain and how strong anywhere in the Philippines at any given time six hours prior.”
For typhoons, the lead time will be 12 to 18 hours or even more; the same is true for floods, with a minimum lead time of six hours prior with provisions for where the floods are and how high water levels will be.
Rain intensity will be classified as slight, medium, heavy and torrential. For thunderstorm forecasts, the accuracy is scaled at 50 percent four hours prior, 60 percent three hours before, 70 percent in two hours and 80 percent in one hour.
Forecasts for tropical cyclones will be available one to five days before they hit the country.
Data from water level sensors will be available six to nine hours before floods are expected to come. Rain gauges, automated weather stations and Doppler radar will have information 24 hours before typhoons make landfall while satellite images will provide data five days before landfall.
NOAH will provide high-resolution flood hazard maps and install 600 automated rain gauges and 400 water level measuring stations in 18 major river basins.
These are the river basins of Marikina, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Agno, Pampanga, Bicol, Cagayan, Agusan, Panay, Magaswang Tubig, Jalaur, Ilog-Hilabangan, Agus, Davao, Mindanao, Tagum-Libuganon, Tagaloan and Buayan-Malungun.
Other river basins will be covered soon after the work on these basins are completed, with the Infanta and Lucena river basins to be prioritized.
Equipment fabrication and deployment will be followed through December by three-dimensional mapping and flood simulation.
The hazard maps are produced with computer simulations that reflect flood-prone areas discernible at a local scale or community level. These maps are necessary for localized emergency response, identification of evacuation and access routes, road closures during disaster events, siting of key rescue facilities and comprehensive land use planning.
This is the first time such an extensive system will be operational, Montejo said in a prior briefing to science reporters.
He pointed out that rain and water level gauges in the last 30 years were limited to the Pampanga, Agno, Bicol and Marikina river systems. This time, he said, six major rivers will be covered by NOAH in just one year of operations.
The initial output of Project NOAH is focused on the Marikina Watershed and, since March, the data are accessible online.
These include streaming data from the automated rain gauges and water level sensors, flood hazard maps overlain on Google Maps, graphical satellite radar and Doppler data forecasts, and translated rain intensity and volume measurements in terms of warning and evacuation level alarms, hours or days ahead of the flood event.
NOAH is now installed in six river systems and every month, until the end of the year, the system will be expanded to cover other river systems. Flood mapping, wind strength and temperature will be all in by then.
In time, NOAH is expected to strengthen the weather forecasting capabilities of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration or Pagasa and the earthquake and volcanic monitoring of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) that are part of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
DOST’s Advanced Science and Technology Institute will provide the Information Technology backbone.
NOAH scientists will advice Pagasa and PHIVOLCS and collaborate with government agencies to incorporate disaster science research, advanced technology and innovative information services in disaster prevention.
About 82 metereologists, for example, will be posted nationwide within the year, including in five Pagasa regional offices, so they can make local forecasts for specific sites. These local forecasts will be based on data from specific geographical sites with different weather conditions.
“Through the use of advanced science and technology, NOAH aims to improve disaster management capacity of local governments and assure homeland security by reducing casualties and property loss from extreme hazard events,” the NOAH website explains.