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Meteorologists in short supply

[ 2009-03-24 13:52]     字号 [] [] []  
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A shortage of meteorological experts has challenged the country's ability to deal with increasingly devastating weather events caused by global warming, a top meteorologist said yesterday.

China's weather forecasting capacity lags behind developed countries', "mainly (because of) a shortage of talent rather than of money", China Meteorological Administration (CMA) vice-director Xu Xiaofeng told China Economic Weekly yesterday, which was World Meteorological Day.

China began increasing investment in meteorological studies from 1998, when a huge flood affected 29 provinces and caused 255.1 billion yuan ($37 billion) in losses.

"Every year, the government spends 1 percent more on meteorological research, and we have spent 3 to 4 billion yuan on this area every year since 2005," Xu said.

While China already suffers a lack of qualified meteorologists, "many of the skilled researchers who graduated in the 1980s are leaving this field, so we must rely on fresh graduates", Xu said, without elaborating on the brain drain's cause.

The administration has set a target for the recruitment and training of 200 researchers who meet international standards by 2012.

In addition, the administration plans to train 1 million meteorologists within three to five years to ensure every village has the weather information needed to combat natural disasters.

China frequently suffers weather disasters as it is a geographically expansive developing country that is extremely vulnerable to climate change. And extreme weather events are expected to become more devastating and harder to manage, Xu said.

CMA statistics show natural disasters - including non-weather-related ones - caused losses amounting to 2.8 percent of the GDP from 2001 to 2008. Last January's blizzards affected 22 provinces and cities, causing losses totaling 151.6 billion yuan.

And last May's devastating earthquake claimed more than 80,000 lives, causing 845.1 billion yuan in losses.

The hailstorm that pelted Hubei province on Saturday affected more than 280,000 people, and damaged vegetable, corn and tea crops.

Xu also explained a lack of coordination among government departments sometimes diminishes disaster-reduction efficiency.

For example, the State Flood Control and Drought Relief headquarters operates under the Ministry of Water Resources, while the National Disaster Reduction Bureau is under the Ministry of Civil Affairs, and departments responsible for combating fires and earthquakes are under other ministries.

"Sometimes it's hard for ministries to agree, and we have to wait for the State Council to mediate," Xu said.

Beijing Institute of Petrochemical Technology researcher Luo Daoquan suggested establishing a new ministry exclusively responsible for disaster reduction to avoid such overlap.

The International Panel of Climate Change's fourth assessment report released in 2007 forecasted increasingly extreme weather in the coming years.

China's National Assessment Report on Climate Change, released in the same year, also forecasted increasing temperatures, and more frequent and severe droughts and floods.

(英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Meteorologists in short supply

About the broadcaster:

Meteorologists in short supplyBernice Chan is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Bernice has written for newspapers and magazines in Hong Kong and most recently worked as a broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, producing current affairs shows and documentaries.