Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pagasa: What went wrong?

By Alcuin Papa - Inquirer

Was PAGASA wrong in predicting the path of Typhoon “Mina”? The weather bureau does not think so.

In a conference of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) Saturday afternoon with President Macapagal-Arroyo in attendance, Science and Technology Undersecretary Graciano Yumul said that as early as Thursday, the weather bureau told the media that there were two scenarios on Mina’s path.

Yumul, a former officer in charge of Pagasa, said the first was that Mina would slam into Bicol and exit through Oriental Mindoro. The other was that it would hit Aurora and Isabela provinces, cut through northern Luzon and exit through Ilocos Sur.

“Is CNN right and was Pagasa wrong? No,” said Yumul, referring to the Cable News Network that predicted Mina would hit Aurora and Isabela instead of the Bicol region.

Yumul also said Pagasa had studied various models from other weather centers in Japan, Hong Kong and the US Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) run by the US Navy based in Hawaii.

The latter had predicted Mina’s present course.

“Other climate models use mathematical models. But Pagasa uses not only numerical but also real-time field station data,” he said.

Yumul said there was no use comparing the JTWC with Pagasa.

He also said Bicol would still experience heavy rains.

Science and Technology Secretary Estrella Alabastro earlier told reporters that other models had been studied for Mina.

“There are a lot of models, and Pagasa has its own model, and we compare. These models have different conclusions, but we have to buttress [a conclusion] with ground data,” she said.

Yumul said Pagasa forecasts were “official” and accountable. Other models did not have any accountability, he said.

According to regulations of the World Meteorological Organization, predictions of the official agency of the host country apply in so far as the host country is concerned, Yumul said.

“Pagasa looks at other models from other climate centers. Any layman looking at these models will not come up with an intelligent decision. But Pagasa has to make a stand. Our stand—that the storm would track a western direction—was based on available information of Pagasa,” he said.

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