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ASEAN disaster prevention efforts stepped up with satellite systems training

ASEAN countries are prone to water-related disasters that can and too often do prove deadly, particularly for the sub-region’s most vulnerable people living in remote, disaster-prone areas.







When it comes to mitigating this harm, the ability to make accurate and timely predictions about the timing and potential severity of water-related disasters such as floods and storms is potentially life-saving. A recent meeting of the ASEAN Academic Network advanced the capabilities of the sub-region in addressing this critical area of scientific observation.

The ASEAN Network Technical Training Workshop held on 1 and 2 October at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Engineering in Bangkok brought academics, scientists, policy-makers and researchers for an information-sharing and learning session, particularly on the potential benefit of satellite-based rainfall applications in ASEAN countries.

Ten researchers from Indonesia, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Lao PDR, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and Philippines participated in this two-day technical training, along with more than 10 Thai researchers from the Thai Meteorological Department, Hydro and Agro Informatics Institute, King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi’s Joint Graduate School of Energy and Environment, as well as Chulalongkorn University.

A key focus of the training was PERSIANN, "Precipitation Estimation from Remotely Sensed Information using Artificial Neural Networks," developed at the University of California, Irvine’s Center for Hydrometeorology & Remote Sensing (CHRS), a system used to monitor and estimate precipitation through satellites.

The system has been in development for more than a decade, with specialized applications that hold great potential in disaster risk reduction, such as PERSIANN-CDR, which contains a record of climate data on precipitation of over 30 years, the near real-time G-WADI PERSIANN-CCS GeoServer, and PERSIANN-CONNECT, a searchable database of global extreme precipitation events with various climate characteristics.

Trainees were able to test out the PERSIANN monitoring system using their own country’s data. In addition to the hands-on training, Professor Koulin Hsu and Dr Phu Nguyen from University of California, Irvine, led an online tutorial session on the technology on the workshop’s second day.

Participants also shared care studies from their countries and said that the training session was helpful not only to learn more about the technology, but also to meet and collaborate with other researchers in the sub-region.

UNESCO proposed that the workshop be held under its IHP/G-WADI (Global Network on Water and Development Information for Arid Lands) programme with Chulalongkorn University and the University of California (Irvine). The workshop followed a successful training session held at THA 2015 on “Satellite-based Rainfall (PERSIANN) for Planning and Management for Natural Disasters in Monsoon Asia.

Representatives from ASEAN and the ASEAN Secretariat also supported the workshop.

The ASEAN Academic Network was formed in January during the Thai Hydrologist Association's (THA) 2015 conference with the need to improve cooperation among ASEAN countries and related international agencies in efforts to mitigate the impact of water-related disasters.

Along with academic collaboration, the network targets cross-sectoral networking in water, disaster management, climate change and related issues. It provides a platform through which researchers and planners/policy-makers can share knowledge and discuss common aims.

As part of these efforts, the network aims to develop a technical manual on PERSIANN with case studies featuring validated results from participating countries over the course of a month.

The next workshop will be held in one year and will focus on techniques for adjusting biases in the use of the technology. It is expected that the next training will attract even more participants interested in this field of research, further bolstering efforts in water engineering and management in the sub-region.