The Typhoon Committee, which symbolizes the successful cooperation between WMO and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, holds its 53rd annual session, woth participants from the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) and national Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) agencies who will exchange information on achievements of the past session, review activities of the Members, as well as operational and research collaborations, with the clear focus on reducing the number of lives lost and damage to property caused by tropical cyclones and typhoons.
On top of the disruption and catastrophic impacts caused by COVID-19, the Asia-Pacific region was hit by successive hazards in 2020, including tropical cyclones, floods, droughts, sand and dust storms and heatwaves. 23 named tropical cyclones of tropical storm intensity or above formed over the western North Pacific and the South China Sea.
The strongest tropical cyclone of the season was Super Typhoon Goni (2019). It made landfall over northern Philippines on 1 November and caused catastrophic damage. A minimum pressure of 912.1 hPa was reported in Virac and a maximum gust of 198 km/h was reported in Legaspi City. 25 people died and 399 injured, and the social and economic loss was estimated to be over 17 billion Philippines Peso, according to a report from the Philippines national meteorological and hydrological service PAGASA.
Two major tropical cyclones hit the Korean Peninsula within a few days in early September, with Typhoon Maysak making landfall near Busan on 3 September, followed by Haishen on 7 September. Maysak brought 1037 mm of rainfall over two days to a site on Jeju Island, and wind gusts on the island up to 165.6 km/h, with high waves of more than 8 m. The damage costs of Mayask and Haishen reaches over 200 million USD, with a possible recovery cost of 548 million USD, according to a report submitted to the Typhoon Committee by the Korea Meteorological Administration. Both tropical cyclones led to significant flooding on the Korean Peninsula and in western Japan, and 41 lives were lost when a ship sank off western Japan during the passage of Maysak.
Although countries across the region have committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 — to ensure that ‘no one is left behind’ – this will remain a challenge if their populations remain susceptible to disasters that threaten to reverse hard-won progress towards the SDGs.
Building on the success of the Typhoon Committee, WMO continues to work with countries in the region, often in partnership with other United Nations entities, to build greater resilience to natural disasters that wreak a heavy economic and human toll.
In particular, WMO and UNESCAP in 2020 focused on implementing collaborative activities under their Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). These activities highlight the synergistic benefits that are derived from both organisations’ work on building resilience to climate and disaster risks and the promotion of impact-based early warning services and systems.
This MoU was renewed by Ms Armida Salsiah-Alisjahbana, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of UNESCAP and Prof. Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of WMO on 21 September 2019 during the UN Climate Summit held in New York, based on their aligned values and objectives and desire to work together in areas of mutual interest.
A Joint Workshop on Strengthening Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems and Early Actions in Southeast Asia was organized by WMO and hosted by UNESCAP in Bangkok, Thailand from 18 to 20 February 2020. Participants reached a consensus on developing a coordinated Southeast Asia-wide framework for strengthening the hydro-meteorological disaster risk management and capacity development of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services.
The Regional Climate Outlook Fora (RCOFs) have been guided and supported by WMO and its partners to promote collaboration, knowledge and information sharing on seasonal climate prediction and its likely implications for the most impacted socio-economic sectors since the late 1990s. The potential to add further value to the outputs of RCOFs through impact-based products was introduced by UNESCAP during the South Asian Seasonal Climate Outlook Forum (SASCOF), the Forum on Regional Climate Monitoring, Assessment and Prediction for Asia (FOCRAII) and the East Asia winter Climate Outlook Forum (EASCOF).
Looking ahead, with its official membership in the United Nations’ Regional Collaborative Platform in Asia and the South-West Pacific, WMO will build on the achievements of 2020 and further expand regional cooperation in the broader context of sustainable development. In 2021, the partnership will continue its critically important mission to build resilience to climate and disaster risk; and promote the social and economic benefits of impact-based early warning services in the Asia Pacific region. WMO’s longstanding and manifold regional initiatives and capacity development programmes in Asia-Pacific will now be further enhanced.