31 May – 12 June: Learning visit to the US on weather and river forecasting

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ICIMOD and its regional partners from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan have been implementing a project on the Application of Satellite Rainfall Estimates in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region since June 2006 with technical support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS). This project is part of the Asia Flood Network Program of the United States Agency for International Development Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA). The project has focussed on the transfer of state of the art technology in rainfall estimation and its application in rainfall runoff models for discharge prediction for flood forecasting through trainings and case studies conducted by partners. As part of this project a cross-learning visit was organised to the US from May 31 to June 12, 2011 with the aim to strengthen the capacity of partner institutions and provide them hands-on exposure to the latest technology, models and operational aspects. Five participants from Nepal, Bhutan, and China took part in the visit.

During the US cross-learning  visit, the partners had the opportunity to discuss with US partner agencies issues regarding satellite rainfall estimates and their implementation in the GeoSpatial Streamflow Model (GeoSFM). The participants learnt about different research activities going on at NASA, USGS, and NOAA and the state-of-the-art technology used in stream gauging, weather forecasting,  and river forecasting in the US. The visit not only provided an opportunity to learn about the coordination between forecasting units within NOAA, but also the activities of other institutions such as the National Centre for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), the Ocean Prediction Centre (OPC), the Climate Prediction Centre (CPC), and other related agencies.The presentations and interactions with the scientists of the Earth Resources Observation and Sciences (EROS) data centre provided information on the latest models and tools. There are several regional weather and river forecasting offices throughout the United States which provides regional/ local forecasts. From the visit to the Northwest river forecast centre, the participants learnt about the regional and local level weather and river forecasts that are monitored 24 hours a day and seven days a week and the dissemination of information to the local disaster management agencies. 

The participants were happy to be a part of this learning visit and expressed their interest in acquiring advanced modelling tools and techniqes for weather and flood forecasting.They recommend that such visits should be organised in the future to keep pace with the changing technology and to gain insights into operational aspects.