New AWS system installed in Torba Province

For the lone weather observer in Sola, work is non-stop. Alvine Wotlolan’s normal routine consists of recording weather and climate data every three hours, at both day and night, and transmitting the information via high frequency (HF) radio to the Meteorology Office in the capital, Port Vila.

“Every day I take the reading, the thermometer reading, wind direction, wind speed. For the wind and the wind speed I estimate where the wind comes from and how fast. I take cloud data. That’s what I do daily,” said Alvine Wotlolan, Weather Observer at the Sola Meteorology Office in Vanua Lava in the Banks Group.

Sola, located 440 kilometres north of Port Vila, is home to the only weather station in all of Torba Province.

The weather station is one of six that the UNDP-GEF funded Vanuatu Coastal Adaptation Project (VCAP) has supported through the installation of a new Automatic Weather System (AWS) and the upgrade of the Meteorology Office.

The official handover of the Automatic Weather System (AWS) in Sola and Saratamata in late September marks a significant development for the country’s early warning systems.

For weather observers like Alvine, this new technology is a milestone for the Province and her work.

“The system AWS is so very advanced, because it collects the information, after 10 minutes it transmits the data through the satellite where it can be download and analysed in Vila head office, so the weather update can be accessed and disseminated in real time. AWS gives us the quality data. With the manual system, sometimes we have problem with the network, so we cannot transmit the data to Vila because of technical problems with HF radio.”

The data she gathers daily is also provided to local government officials and communities where agriculture and fishing are the main sources of livelihood. Aviation services also directly benefit by having access to continual weather updates, which enhance the safety of airline services to Torba Province.

“In the past there’s no machine like this.  We just get information from everywhere and no proof of where the information that is given to us is from.  We are many times a victim of the weather pattern affecting Torba Province so in essence this automatic weather system will help us to adapt to what is going on with the weather,” said local church leader, Father Winston.

VCAP also funded the installation of Meteo France International’s integrated forecasting software system and provided training to VMGD staff to improve the quality of existing weather bulletins, warning maps, automated message dissemination, and website updates. 

The data will also be shared with the Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Departments and other end users, providing a critical link to outlying provinces and communities.

The financial support from VCAP totals $57 Million Vatu.

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Caption: Weather Observer, Alvine Wotlolan, explains how the new automated weather system works at Sola, Vanua Lava.