News / Asia

    Philippines Developing New Technology-based Weather Hazard Tool

    Project NOAH Executive Director Mahar Lagmay points at a satellite image of a tropical depression approaching the Philippines at the National Institute of Geological Sciences, University of the Philippines Diliman campus, Sept. 20, 2012. (VOA/Simone Orendain)
    Project NOAH Executive Director Mahar Lagmay points at a satellite image of a tropical depression approaching the Philippines at the National Institute of Geological Sciences, University of the Philippines Diliman campus, Sept. 20, 2012. (VOA/Simone Orendain)
    Simone Orendain
    Torrential rains that caused major flooding in the northern Philippines last month tested the country’s brand new weather monitoring system.  Project NOAH, the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards, is a technology-based system intended to ascertain when and where natural disasters strike. 

    Philippine Geologist Carlos Primo David says the phrase “weather whether” has become the common joke for forecasting in the Philippines. “Weather and whether, w-h-e-t-h-e-r, whether it comes or not.  That’s what it means.  So if it rains, then it rains.  That’s essentially what the phrase means," he explained. "But, we refuse to believe that we cannot predict rainfall.”

    David and his team of physicists are part of a group of scientists and meteorologists that is working on the government’s Project NOAH.  The idea is to change the prevailing “weather whether” attitude in this archipelago, which is susceptible to heavy rains with deadly floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

    At the end of 2011, more than 1,200 people died in the southern part of the country because of major floods brought on by a tropical storm.  This prompted President Benigno Aquino to order the country’s Science and Technology Department to come up with a more accurate prediction of natural disasters and an integrated response.  Project NOAH came together with the help of the scientists who had already started research in the respective components.

    Project NOAH Executive Director Mahar Lagmay says high-resolution surveying of the entire country is essential to the $40 million project.

    “To be able to construct hazard maps you need very high resolution topography.  To do the simulations of floods you do need high-resolution topography,” he said.

    University of the Philippines geology professor Lagmay says these will be used to create smaller area maps, which will be crucial to how people respond to natural disasters.

    “By doing local scale, or community scale maps, people can relate with the problem because they see their houses, they see their neighbor’s houses," he added. "The bridge in their community, the river in their community in relation to the hazards - the flood hazards in particular."

    Project NOAH is accessible on the Internet and all components are expected to be completed in 2014.  They include a flood information network, landslide susceptibility and storm surge warnings among others.  Right now anyone can look up a forecast at the NOAH website by plugging in a location and picking rainfall prediction with a look at cloud patterns or stream heights, among other combinations.

    Geologist Carlos Primo David’s team at the University of the Philippines in Manila is working toward flood prediction.  But first they are fine-tuning rain prediction to help determine where flooding will happen.  David says the team relies on satellites, Doppler radar and hundreds of rain gauges all stationed across the country.

    “And, so our forecasts are specific.  Rainfall, 95 percent chance of rainfall in Makati- specific to the area.  And, 20 percent chance of rainfall, small amount of chance in Laguna.  Then I have something to use, to plan,” David stated.

    David says the data also predicts the intensity of the rainfall within an hour.

    During the heavy rains in August, the capital region, Manila, experienced roof-high flooding.  The state weather bureau used NOAH’s rainfall information and re-broadcast its automated alerts on the social networking site, Twitter.  And, a corresponding color code warning system was put in place and read by radio and television announcers.

    Lagmay says the project passed its first test because government used the data to carry out evacuations. “Relatively it was successful because what we wanted to avoid was mass death,” he said.

    But, so far the project is still not widely known.

    After a quick check of more than a dozen people on the streets of Manila’s business district, almost none of them had ever heard of Project NOAH.

    One woman in line at a bus stop said she was “a little familiar” with it.  Janice Lagundi says it determines the most probable locations where flooding can happen.  But she said adding the color code to already existing weather warnings would take some getting used to.

    “We might associate those colors for the strength of the wind, for the strength of the rain, but who knows… so it’s really confusing,” she added.

    Project NOAH’s executive director, Mahar Lagmay, says the government’s challenge now is to get people to change their mindset from not doing anything about weather events that appear to be random to actively preparing for the worst.

    You May Like

    Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.