Jun 23, 2008

USAID Announces New Tool to Provide Weather Alerts in Central America and Caribbean

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24June2008. WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Assistant Administrator Jacqueline E. Schafer announced the introduction of NextStorm, a new tool for severe weather prediction useful in developing countries. This new tool was created through a partnership including USAID, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean (CATHALAC), based in Panama.

“NextStorm is a new addition to the SERVIR system,” said Schafer. “USAID has sponsored SERVIR and its components in an effort to provide developing nations with the capacity to use satellite data and mapping technologies for making practical decisions that improve people’s lives.” SERVIR is an important contributor to the U.S. Group on Earth Observations (USGEO), which is part of the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO).

SERVIR (the Spanish acronym for Regional Visualization & Monitoring System), is using satellite resources of the U.S. and other countries to put previously inaccessible earth observation data and other tools into action in Central America. SERVIR encourages the sharing of data from multiple sources across international boundaries. Serving all Central American countries, southern Mexico, and the Dominican Republic, SERVIR is a leading example of regional collaboration and information management, enabling informed decision-making in the areas ranging from weather forecasts and disaster management to air pollution, fire monitoring and red tides. Based on the success of SERVIR in Meso-America, planning is underway to bring SERVIR and its suite of tools, such as NextStorm, to East Africa.

“In the United States, we benefit from routine severe weather alerts, but in this region NextStorm will be particularly useful because Doppler weather radar generally does not exist,” said Dan Irwin, SERVIR project director, NASA. “The ability to warn communities about hazardous weather, such as thunderstorms, lightning, and heavy rains will help prevent property damage and save lives.”

NOAA and UAH have tested NextStorm for nearly two years, providing developers with the feedback essential to increasing its accuracy. The aim has been to identify cumulus clouds that are likely to evolve into thunderstorms within one hour. NextStorm is expected to go operational in Central America this summer.

José Achache, Director of the GEO Secretariat, called NextStorm “a major advance in putting Earth observation data and other tools to work in protecting people and livelihoods in southern Mexico and throughout Central America.” The U.S. Group on Earth Observations underscores the value of collaborating across geographic boundaries to greatly improve predictive capabilities and deliver vital societal benefits to people in different regions of the globe.

For more information on USAID and its programs around the globe, please visit www.usaid.gov.