Building the climate capability of the Meteorological Service Singapore

by NO_AUTHOR | Met Office
Friday, 19 October 2012 14:31 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Global warming is, by definition, a worldwide problem that requires international efforts to study and resolve. The expertise developed by the Met Office Hadley Centre over more than two decades is now helping Singapore to assess the risks faced by the country and the wider South East Asia region.

South East Asia is highly vulnerable to climate variability and climate change; for example, through flooding from tropical thunderstorms and storm surges, coastal land loss from sea level rise, heat stress, and the resurgence of diseases such as dengue.

In May 2011, the UK Met Office and the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) — which sits within its National Environment Agency (NEA) — set out a programme to enhance Singapore’s climate science capability.

The programme will last for at least three years and involve an exchange of scientists and expertise to carry out research in regional climate science and develop climate models. This long-term partnership is seen as an important step towards building a sustainable climate science capability at the MSS.

The MSS is committed to developing its scientific understanding of the region’s climate. Andrew Tan CEO at NEA is confident that the partnership will help the MSS to, “strengthen the development of our climate science capability, in line with MSS’ repositioning as the national weather and climate authority of Singapore.”

During the exchange visits, Met Office scientists will benefit from a greater understanding of the impacts of climate change in South East Asia. Likewise, MSS staff visiting the UK will gain invaluable knowledge about climate modelling and climate science.

Better prediction of the El Niño and La Niña phenomena, the Asian monsoons and tropical convective systems is a key aim of the partnership. All have an important bearing on the weather and climate of Singapore and the wider South East Asia region, as well as the global climate system

Building an observations and evidence base

As the climate continues to change, we’re perhaps beginning to see changes in the frequency and severity of extreme weather around the world, with South East Asia likely to become more and more vulnerable to its effects.

Throughout the South East Asia region there’s a wealth of weather observations, built up over time, documenting when and how often extreme weather hits the region. Met Office scientists are using their expertise, also accumulated over the years, to help the MSS and other national weather services across South East Asia analyse these records. Led by the MSS, this project will establish a database that will be used to determine the level of risk each country faces and assess the reliability of climate models in the region.

From the earliest days of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988, Met Office scientists have played an integral role in furthering the understanding of climate science. Another aim of the Met Office–MSS partnership is to produce joint scientific papers relevant to the IPCC’s upcoming Assessment Report in 2013/4 that cover fundamental issues of climate change and its impacts on the South East Asia region. By integrating the MSS into IPCC processes in this way, the Met Office is not only helping to enhance the scientific capability of Singapore but strengthening the IPCC’s process with a broader and more comprehensive evidence base.

Building climate modelling capability

The Met Office’s regional climate modelling system, PRECIS — or Providing Regional Climates for Impact Studies, to give it its full title — was developed to help generate high-resolution climate change information for any region of the world. It is widely used by many countries and regions, including South East Asia, for regional climate research and in developing climate change scenarios. Importantly, these outputs are used in the impact, vulnerability and adaptation studies that underpin scientific advice and policy decisions.

With Met Office support, the MSS intends to lead the effort to coordinate regional projections derived from PRECIS and other regional models. This will provide the most comprehensive picture to date of the likely climate changes over the region. In an area of the world vulnerable to sea level rise, extremes of temperature and rainfall as well as tropical cyclones, the Met Office–MSS partnership is building local capability to help inform many important decisions over the coming decades.

Already, the Met Office and MSS have worked together to install a high resolution regional climate model in Singapore based on our latest global climate model, HadGEM3. This version of the model is resolved to 12 km — much finer than usual — and will be used to add detail to large-scale regional projections from global climate models. The higher resolution allows a more accurate representation of surface features, such as topographies and coastlines, as well as atmospheric processes, improving local climatology.

It is important for Singapore to be capable of making, analysing and understanding such high resolution model projections so that the MSS can provide advice to enable better informed decisions.

The Met Office–MSS partnership is fundamental to making this possible, while providing a stepping stone to future cooperation.

Further information on the project and other capacity development projects at