Ding Yihui: utmost urgency in improving meteorological observation capability in the South China Sea

19-06-2015Source:China Meteorological News Press

The South China Sea is frequently hit by various meteorological disasters including typhoon, torrential rain, strong wind, heavy fog, which seriously affect fishery, transportation, oil exploration and other activities. Its an indispensable duty of the meteorological departments to support disaster prevention and mitigation, resource exploration, as well as to fulfill international obligations in this area. For details, regarding meteorological facilities establishment in the South China Sea, the reporter interviewed Prof. Ding Yihui, Academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and Climate Change Special Advisor from China Meteorological Administration (CMA).


Reporter: What are the characteristics of climate condition in the South China Sea?


Ding Yihui: The South China Sea is characteristic of its tropical maritime monsoon climate, with high temperature and slight temperature difference all over the year. It is very rich in annual precipitation, but the rainfall is unevenly distributed in both time and space, with high frequency of disasters like typhoon, torrential rain, strong wind and heavy fog. From the global point of view, the South China Sea is one of the regions in the Northern Hemisphere that are most sensitive to weather and climate changes. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has paid close attention to its weather and climate and has established global meteorological data exchange stations there. China has also taken its international obligations of providing marine meteorological information to the Eleventh Zone of Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), that is, the Indian Ocean Met. Area (including the South China Sea) designated by WMO.


Reporter: What is the importance of the development of meteorological facilities in the South China Sea?


Ding Yihui: The development of meteorological observing facilities in the South China Sea is the basis of improving the capacity for meteorological prediction and forecasting over the region. The construction of observing and communication infrastructures is the first step towards enhancing and improving marine meteorological monitoring, warning, forecasting, prediction and scientific research, towards conducting marine-oriented public weather services, and towards improving the capacity in disaster prevention and mitigation and climate change response in this region. In fact, from the perspective of scientific research, since the last century, scientists have fully recognized the importance in this connection and carried out systematic observations and scientific researches.


Reporter: Why is the enhanced regional observing capacity over the South China Sea helpful for improving meteorological prediction and forecasting?


Ding Yihui: Severe weather events occur frequently over the South China Sea. The weather systems from or through this region often bring about severe weather to the coastal areas. In the landfall typhoons in China, more than 80% landed along the South China Sea coast, 36% of which are originated from the South China Sea. Meanwhile, this region is also a key place where the South China Sea monsoon breaks out. The onset of the South China Sea monsoon marks the beginning of rainy season in China and East Asia. In the context of such weather conditions, the enhanced observing capacity would undoubtedly better access to observational data and more complete meteorological information over the South China Sea, so as to improve the accuracy of weather forecasting and climate prediction over the region and the affected areas.


Reporter: As you mentioned, the South China Sea is sensitive to climate change, so what is the importance of enhanced meteorological infrastructure in this region for addressing climate change?


Ding Yihui: The South China Sea is one of the regions in the Northern Hemisphere most sensitive to weather and climate changes. In recent years, marine disasters, weather and climate extremes over the ocean have increased in frequency due to climate warming. The intensity of typhoon is influenced by the change of the sea surface temperatures of the South China Sea. In the context of global warming, the onset of the South China Sea summer monsoon is significantly earlier than before, influencing the precipitation and its distribution in China. By strengthening meteorological observation and forecasting services over the South China Sea, we can get more data of basic observation. This is fundamental for addressing climate change and protecting marine ecological environment. This will also help us understand the atmospheric and oceanic conditions and the behaviors of marine weather and climate changes.


Reporter: Scientific research is an important aspect in improving observation capacity. You have organized “the South China Sea Monsoon Experiment”, and acted as the project manager. Could you please introduce the experiment and its outcomes?


Ding Yihui: The South China Sea Monsoon Experiment was launched in 1994. It was the first integrated atmosphere-ocean observation experiment initiated and organized by Chinese scientists. Scientists from the US, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and experts from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan of China participated in the experiment and related research. The experiment lasted for five years. We carried out large-scale intensive surface and radiosonde observations as well as special observations from buoys and research vessels in the South China Sea and the areas around. By doing this, we obtained a large amount of data, including the data on the onset and evolution of monsoons, mesoscale convection systems and ocean. Those data supported the studies of the monsoons in the South China Sea and East Asia. Those data have also been widely used in related domestic and foreign researches.  


Reporter: Would you please introduce China’s capacity of meteorological observation in the South China Sea? Do you have any advice in this respect?


Ding Yihui: Since 1950s, China has gradually developed surface, upper-air and weather radar observations in the South China Sea. The synoptic data from the meteorological observing stations on Yongxing Island, Xisha Islands, and Yongshu Reef, Nansha Islands, have been exchanged globally under WMO framework. In recent years, to prevent and mitigate disasters and meet the needs of meteorological services, we have set up dozens of automatic weather stations and lightning detection stations on some Xisha and Nansha Islands. And the meteorological facilities in those formerly established meteorological stations have been renovated and upgraded. Recently, we also plan to conduct observing experiments in the South China Sea, including the use of dropsondes and marine meteorological buoys, to support WMO scientific researches on typhoon in the near future. However, the marine meteorological facilities are insufficient to meet the growing requirements of transportation and other production activities in the South China Sea. In my view, the sea-based weather observations in the South China Sea should focus on filling the observation gaps in key areas. The coast-based observations should focus on optimizing and supplementing existing observation capacities. We should also enhance our air-based observations in medium and distant sea areas. By this, we can strengthen our capacity of integrated application in marine meteorology.


Reporter: Jia Jingxi

Editor: Hao Jing