Avoidable losses


The importance of timely and accurate weather forecasting was underlined in a report shortly to be published in the US journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The Washington Post reports that the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting in Reading, in the United Kingdom, predicted massive rainfall in northern Pakistan in July, 10 days before the first deluge hit Peshawar, but no warning was sent to Pakistan. The Centre distributes summaries of its simulations daily to the World Meteorological Association, but the scale of the threat was not picked up in Pakistan.  

Peter Webster, the author of the forthcoming article, reportedly set up an early warning system for Bangladesh that has since saved thousands of lives. Webster was unable to raise funds for a similar project from Pakistan. The losses in Pakistan last summer included 2,000 dead and 20 million displaced. Infrastructure and other losses are estimated to run into billions of dollars. The relatively modest cost of an effective warning system would have repaid many times over in human lives material losses saved.