Instruments help manage climate threats and opportunities in Samoa

In 2009 the Government of Samoa asked NIWA to assist its Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) with improving its monitoring and management of climate risks. A four-year project encompassing this work will run until February 2013.

NIWA installed four automatic weather stations, part of an integrated multi-agency Climate Network. Data from these and other existing climate stations will contribute to a solid base of information to help Samoan authorities understand and manage the effects of climate change.

The initial focus for the current project is Samoa's Agriculture and Health Sectors, with the aim of increasing resilience to the potential impacts of climate variability and change. The intention is to then extend the project focus to other sectors such as forestry. 

The Climate Network gathers data

Protecting a country against natural hazards requires information about the hazards - how frequently they are likely to occur, their extent and the likely consequences. Once these data are gathered, detection, forecasting and mitigation can be addressed.

A network of NIWA and existing climate stations record data and send this to servers to be stored and processed.

At present the Climate Network comprises four new NIWA Automatic Weather Stations (AWS), five Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) weather stations, a number of manual stations, and two JICA sea-level stations.

NIWA Climate Stations read and record the data

There are two types of NIWA Climate Monitoring Stations in the network:

  • Electronic Weather Station (EWS) - these take precision measurements that meet World Meteorological Organization (WMO) standards
  • Compact Weather Station (CWS) - a smaller second-tier agro-meteorological monitoring station

These stations record wind speed and direction, air temperature, humidity, solar radiation, barometric pressure, soil temperature and moisture, rainfall and leaf wetness. They read their sensors every 3 seconds and record the data every 10 minutes. The stations operate automatically and require only occasional maintenance and calibration checks.

Delivering the data

Every hour the recorded data are transferred via a national cellular network to a Server located in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE). The data are reformatted using NIWA software and archived in the Pacific climate database (CliDE) installed at MNRE. The Samoan Meteorological Division manages the telemetry operations and carry out quality checks on the data. They also enter additional data from manual rainfall and climate stations.

CliDE (Climate Data for the Environment) was developed by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology in consultation with NIWA. It is a relational database management system distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation.

NIWA is assisting archiving data from other parts of the Samoan climate network to CliDE. Historical Samoan data from NIWA's national climate database has also been returned to Samoa through the implementation of CliDE.

The Climate Early Warning System (CLEWS)

The network enhancement and new climate database will improve the opportunity for a Climate Early Warning System (CLEWS) to be developed for Samoa under the Government's National Adaptation Plan of Action. CLEWS aims to draw together historical experience, traditional knowledge, science-based observations and modern communications technology to help warn people about changing risk levels.

Training for maintaining and sustaining

NIWA provides training and on-going support for MNRE staff to maintain the NIWA-sourced monitoring stations. Training is critical and the enthusiasm and commitment shown by MNRE staff on the project bodes well for long-term network operation and assimilation of high quality data into the CliDE database. 

Where to next?

Plans to strengthen Samoa's rainfall network are in place with a proposal to add several automatic rain gauges, in order to make rainfall data available closer to real time. NIWA's NEON data collection system may also be introduced to Samoa, which will further improve real time data access.

The CLEWS reporting capability and routine services will be developed through consultation and user engagement, to ensure the most appropriate and usable information is available.

NIWA is also developing an applications layer for the database, which will enable fast and automated visualization of the data through reports, maps and time series.

Other organizations involved

CLEWS involves climate scientists, meteorologists, farmers and agriculturalists.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is implementing this Samoan Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) project (Integrated Climate Change Risks in the Agriculture and Health Sectors in Samoa or ICCRA&HSS) under a Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded program.

The Australian Government, under its Pacific Climate Change Science Programme, is funding the Database.

The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has funded a significant amount of the equipment for Samoa's present Meteorological Services.

Read about other NIWA climate-related projects in the Pacific

Upgrading the Fiji Met Service's rainfall network


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Principal Technician - Instrument Systems
Local members of Samoa’s MNRE receive hands-on training as they install a NIWA climate station. (Photo: Andrew Harper)
A completed NIWA climate station. (Photo: Andrew Harper)
The local team (Photo: Andrew Harper)
Research subject: Instrumentation