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Responding to the threat of hydro-meteorological hazards: Some organisational and economic aspects related to early warning system in the Ukraine

Olga Karpova
State Committee of Ukraine for Hydrometeorology, 6, Zolotovoritska str., 34, Kiev, MSP,252601, Ukraine.
Tel. :+380 44 221 93 92, Fax:+380 44 229 18 88,
E-mail: olga@meteo.freenet.kiev.ua

Abstract:

Introduction The abstract briefly considers some organisational aspects of disaster management to be established in the Ukraine including functions of the Hydrometeorological Service in this activity.

The economy and population of Ukraine suffer from 100150 hydrometeorological disasters of different duration and intensity every year. The following types of disasters are frequently observed: floods, storms, frosts, squalls, hailstorms, avalanches, droughts, dust storms. Table 1 presents a statistics of the types of natural disasters observed over the territory of Ukraine in 1997 at the national, regional and local level, respectively.

Type of natural disaster in 1997

National

Regional

Local

Total

Number

of people

killed/injured

Meteorological

2

72

80

154

16/57

Marine

1

2

3

Hydrological

2

1

26

29

2/130

Landslides, avalanches

2

2

16

20

6/

Interaction of governmental agencies

Experience shows that one of the most effective measures for reducing damage and consequences of natural disasters is a well-functioning co-ordination of actions among a number of governmental institutions being involved in this activity. In the framework of the State Emergency Commission special procedures for natural disaster preparedness and mitigation have been established by the Government for national governmental agencies. The following governmental institutions are responsible for emergency management in Ukraine:

  • State Emergency Commission, chaired by the Vice-Prime-Minister ;
  • Ministry of Emergency Situations;
  • Ministry of Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety;
  • State Committee for Hydrometeorology;
  • State Committee for Water Management;
  • Committee of Nuclear Power Production

By these procedures, the State Committee for Hydrometeorology (UkrHydromet) plays an active and important role in the prevention and preparedness process at the national level by co-operating with all members of the hazard community.

Procedures of interaction on disaster preparedness and prevention between UkrHydromet and Ministry of Emergency Situations specify the basic principles and directions, define the roles and responsibilities of relevant departments of both organisations in the implementation of preparedness and mitigation activity. Procedures between UkrHydromet and other institutions are under consideration and preparation now.

Warning co-ordination within UkrHydromet

The goal of any warning system is to maximise the number of people who take appropriate and timely actions for the safety of life and property. Successful warning systems have to include several equally important elements, namely : detection and warning, communication, response and recovery.

The most important elements of warning systems are: early identification of extreme events, assessment of risk, issuing of warnings and dissemination of information. In order to timely fulfil these tasks, detailed regulations specifying the responsibilities of different departments have been established by UkrHydromet for actions at the national, regional and local levels. In accordance with these regulations, the Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Centre, as a main component of UkrHydromet, has concentrated its efforts on the provision of weather, hydrological and agrometeorological forecasts at the national level. Warnings on severe weather and dangerous weather phenomena, rainfall floods and spring floods are issued by Meteorological and Hydrological Departments for 14 days and 1030 days ahead accordingly, while small-scale storms (squalls, local showers, hail) are predicted approximately 1012 hours ahead. The Agrometeorological Department of Hydrometeorological Centre also provides information and advice on the frequency, duration and probability of occurrence of extreme weather events related to agriculture during growing season and crops overwintering, including droughts, dry hot winds, ice crusts and others. The Agrometeorological Department analyses recent and current weather based on data received from meteorological stations every decade and on long-term climatological records and issues warnings as required.

Regional Centres for Hydrometeorology and observatories being located in every region of Ukraine specify the forecasts and issue warnings in view of the current synoptic situation, using data from routine observations, radiolocators and satellites.

Warnings are disseminated by the Hydrometeorological Centre and the Regional Centres within their areas of responsibility to governmental officials and disasters managers, local authorities, the media and others in conformity with established procedures by fax, telephone, teletypes and electronic means of communication. Due to an agreement signed between the National Broadcasting Company and the Hydrometeorological Centre, shift forecasters have the opportunity to radio broadcast directly from the office usually two times per day but in cases of emergency more frequently.

In 1997 in the framework of an agreement with the National Space Agency of Ukraine, it became possible to get access to Meteosat high resolution data for the Hydrometeorological Centre and to allow the Meteorological Department directly to benefit from receiving satellite data, thus improving its position for issuing warnings.

However most of the forecasting methods which are currently in operation are not automated yet. This hampers the prompt delivery of warnings to users. The implementation of more advanced computer systems for the production and delivery of forecasts and warnings could significantly increase the efficiency of servicing.

Fighting against floods

In Ukraine, floods have a great damage potential. Therefore in the operational practice of UkrHydromet special attention is given to the forecasting of floods. The Hydrological Department of the Hydrometeorological Centre is responsible for servicing customers by providing forecasts and issuing warnings. Flood-forecast systems work operationally, i.e. present information on the state of river basins from hydrological observing sites is transferred directly to the Department and provides the basis for continuously updated forecasts.

In order to establish an effective flood management system, the Government of Ukraine has adopted the "Flood Action Program". Its implementation has started in 1995 and involved significant financing. Program is designed to use existing national institutional infrastructures and agencies which are responsible for flood protection measures. The main tasks of the Program are:

  • upgrading of the observing network, including re-equipment of stations, improvement of data processing and data transmitting systems;
  • preparation of national and regional detailed maps of zones of hazard potential;
  • working-out of improved practice-relevant methods for flood forecasting;
  • establishment of regional centres for operational flood forecasting;
  • establishment and installation of an upgraded real-time flow forecast system including model development in a regions with high damage potential;
  • improvement of co-ordination of national and international emergency plans.

Some protective-preventive measures have already been taken in the frameworks of this program. For instance, several hydrological observing sites of UkrHydromet were re-equipped with new measuring devices and provided with reliable means of communication and dissemination of data and the Hydrological Departments in the regions were supplied with computer equipment and modern means of communication.

The State Emergency Commission considers regularly the ongoing work of relevant institutions and further plans for program implementation. However, at the Commission meeting held in February this year it was noted that the Ministry of Finance is not always in a position to finance the program at satisfactory level.

Concluding remarks

Any early warning system wont work without combined financial, human, material and technical resources. The fundamental political, economic and social restructuring in Ukraine takes place under very difficult financial conditions. Therefore, the capabilities of the Hydrometeorlogical Service to provide required services for the national disaster management can not be considered without taking into account current economic situation in Ukraine.

The UkrHydromet is state funded and operates under very difficult financial and related technical conditions. The government does not have sufficient funds required to maintain it. Under these conditions of acute crisis in national economy, unsettled social problems of society and environmental ones, including long-term consequences of the Chernobyl accident, it is impossible to expect significant budget capital investments in hydrometeorology. Therefore, UkrHydromet is not able to keep pace with scientific and technical progress in developed countries. At the same time UkrHydromet has a staff consisting of highly-trained people who are dedicated and energetic and still represent a remarkable source for providing beneficial forecast and warning services for the weather-sensitive sectors of economy.

Under current conditions of fiscal restraint it is necessary to search for means of consolidating and strengthening the provision of required services for preparedness and response activity through participation in international research projects and technical assistance programs. Some positive results of such co-operation at the international level have been achieved through the implementation of several technical assistance projects with active involvement of the World Meteorological Organization.