Clement: here is a quick response to David Lush... If this continues, I might
as well join the club! All the best. R.
>Perhaps our list colleague from the FAO could give some imput on whether or
>not it would be feasible to use an e-mail network of newspapers etc, such
>as the MISANET, to get important but easily understandable information
>about weather patterns etc to the media, and thus their audiences. Then
>early-warning systems really could become early warning systems for
>everyone. Or am I being too naive?
We organized a meeting with CTA and WMO in Bamako sometimes in 1992, on how
to get usefull information across to farmers. What we talk of, of course, is
largely illiterate subsistence farmers. The only media that reaches them is
the radio, perhaps the TV. Anything printed can be ruled out. The Bamako
meeting brought together weather services, agricultural extension and the
It turns out that conveying really useful info, i.e. info good enough to
trigger some action, is extremely difficult. Not only because farmers must
first be convinced that the man on the radio really knows what he talks of,
but also because to be useful, advice has to be local.
Take this example: you have two neighbouring villages, one on a heavy clay
soil, the other on a sandy soil. The first soil still "remembers" the rain
that fell three weeks ago (i.e. it still has some stored water), while water
is long gone in the second. The advice the media may give about, say planting
dates, must be very different in the two instances. The interpretation of the
advice also varies as a function of what you plant, on the labour available
(i.e. the duration of planting, etc). The advice is thus better targeted at
agricultural extension staff who can relay it to farmers.
It is clear too that the weathermen will have to depart from their jargon. I
exchanged some email with a meteorologist a couple of days ago who found that
"squall lines", "scattered showers" etc all were perfectly decent words. The
problem is that when the meteorologist says "scattered showers" he has
something precise in his mind, but people who listen do not even realize the
meteorologist is using technical terms, that he does not simply mean
"rain that happen to be scattered".
I keep arguing with meteorologists. Most are, of course, full of good
intentions. They just do not realize that when they say that "some activity
is expected in the northern-central area" is just like saying "the
suppression of the nocturnal concentrations of the endogenous anticonvulsant
melatonin by sudden increases in geomagnetic activity may encourage fatal
cardiac arrhytmias by uncoupling the insular/amygdaloid-paraventricular
hypothalamic-solitary nucleus pathways" [From Int. J. Biometeorol., 38(1995)
There is also the interesting observation that many African meteorologists
told me that the newspapers/TV accept to distribute their forecasts only
against a payment. In the developed world, as everyone knows, it is the media
who pay for a customized forecast! The reason for this difference is, of
course, that in developed countries forecasts usually carry some
understandable information. "Understandable" means that (i) the issuer of the
info knows who it is aimed at, and he has worded it accordingly and (ii) the
target of the info knows enough to understand it.
Why are "private" met services so popular these days (e.g. METEOCONSULT in
the Netherlands): simply because they talk to their customers *before* and
*after* delivering a forecast.
Enough for today!