The chief of the UN's World Meteorology Organization (WMO) Sunday called on Latin America to invest more in the fields of meteorology and hydrology to avoid natural disasters.
Speaking at the Mexico City-based fourth World Water Forum, the WMO secretary general, Frenchman Michael Jarraud, said Latin Americans should view the spending as an investment, because "each dollar invested in this way is multiplied 15 times" in terms of the benefit to a national economy.
Nations must not treat disasters as though they were isolated, he said, citing the case of the December 2004 tsunami -- seaquake followed by giant tidal wave -- which killed 230,000 people in Asia, as evidence of an urgent need for risk planning.
He said that his organization had forecasting systems that allowed scientists to see five to seven months ahead, using new models that linked oceanic and atmospheric data together, which allowed them to analyze hemisphere-wide weather patterns like El Nino and La Nina.
Venezuelan Claudio Caponi, head of the WMO's hydrology branch, said that Latin America did not have the data that would allow it to predict weather phenomena a long way into the future, because it had only recently set up meteorological research centers with UN help.
(Xinhua News Agency March 20, 2006)