INTERVIEW WITH FRANCISCO DE ASSIS DINIZ
DIRECTOR GENERAL - INMET
Could you begin by giving us a quick history of meteorology in Brazil?
Meteorological observations in Brazil began before the 1900s, at the time, carried out by the Brazilian Navy’s meteorological service. The National Institute of Meteorology was established years later, on the 18th November 1909, by Decree 7672 of President Nilo Peçanha. Initially named 'Directorate of Meteorology and Astronomy', linked to the Ministry of Agriculture, Industry and Commerce and established in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
What is the climate like in Brazil?
Brazil is a country of continental proportions and has different types of climate in its territorial extension, however, mostly tropical. For more than 300 years, droughts and elevated temperatures characterize the Northeastern semiarid. The centre of Brazil, mostly covered by Cerrado vegetation, presents two well-defined seasons: Rainy and Dry (drought). Rainfalls, high humidity of the air and elevated temperature characterize the North of Brazil. The South and Southeast regions routinely undergo abrupt variations in precipitation and temperature, in addition to the occurrence of severe weather and climate events.
What are the main climate issues Brazil appears to be facing?
Currently, Brazil faces a rising occurrence of storms and floods, classified as severe events and that require Civil Defense action, in addition to greatly disturbing the population. The country also faces periods of prolonged droughts, which cause agricultural losses and jeopardizing hydroelectric power generation.
Has this been changing over the years?
Yes. Since the 2000s, there has been a greater frequency of these events throughout the country.
What would you need in place to combat this and prepare for the worst?
The adoption of an adaptation process is necessary if these conditions persist over the upcoming years.
What impact does a strong meteorological network have on Brazil?
A strong network of weather stations enables better monitoring of weather and climate conditions, greatly increasing the accuracy of forecasts of severe weather warnings and other services offered to the population. The data collected by the meteorological stations are made available, daily and freely, at the website of the National Institute of Meteorology (INMET).
Can you tell me about your infrastructure in Brazil at the moment, what sort of equipment do you have in place?
We work with great models of weather and climate forecast, however, there is a need to increase our computational capacity. To this end, a project was designed to expand our computational capacity from 56 Teraflops to approximately 800 Teraflops (Project with positive signalling by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply). With this expansion, we will be able to elaborate more detailed forecasts, including specific products for agriculture and civil defence.
How many operational stations do you have?
Currently, INMET's network of weather stations comprises 562 automatic weather stations (AWS) and 230 conventional weather stations. We believe it is necessary to continue expanding our network, which will result in a more comprehensive monitoring and more accurate weather forecasting. In this sense, it is planned the installation of 35 new AWS throughout 2019.
Do you have radar coverage in Brazil?
Currently, INMET does not have nor operates any weather radar. However, it is important to note that Brazil counts with a network composed of approximately 40 weather radars, which are operated by different institutions. The Brazilian Department of Air Space Control (DECEA) operates most radars and is the lead government entity in this matter. A greater integration among national institutions is necessary to consolidate a national radar network.
What problems do you come across when procuring equipment?
Most meteorological equipment is of high cost and not manufactured in Brazil, which considerably increases the final value due to import and transportation taxes. Faced with such a high cost, it is crucial that a larger budget be made available to enable not only the acquisition of equipment but also their respective maintenance activities and purchase of spare parts.
Do you find partnerships with the private sector an important part of running a met service?
Partnerships with the private sector are, indeed, a very important part of running a met service. We provide them with products specific for their needs, particularly for sectors such as agribusiness, power generation and industry. However, it is important to note that, in Brazil, current law does not allow direct investment from the private sector to any public service body.
What is your relationship like with the WMO? How do you work together and in what capacity?
INMET is the official body for weather and climate forecasting in Brazil. In this regard, the Director of the Institute represents the country with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in the capacity of Permanent Representative. In addition, the current Director of INMET was elected, in a personal capacity, as a member of WMO’s Executive Council.
WMO is a true mediator, and through its Commissions and programs, it allows for excellent integration among its member countries. The Organization also counts with regional offices, which enables even closer cooperation. In addition, WMO offers to its member countries a large number of training and capacity-building activities aimed at the technical staff of the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services.
How do you coordinate with your neighbouring countries and should there be more of this?
The National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) in South America work closely together and cooperate towards mutual development. An action that illustrates regional cooperation and deserves mention is the Regional Climate Center for the South of South America (RCC-SSA), a virtual organization, constituted in the form of a network, according to the principles defined by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The main purpose of RCC-SSA is to provide the NMHSs of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia and Chile with climate information that can improve their current capabilities for monitoring, analyzing, forecasting and generating application products in their areas of expertise. It also aims to provide its end users with information and products that uniformly cover the entire Southern Region of South America in the areas of climate monitoring and forecasting, as well as application products to support decision making in areas such as agriculture, hydrology, energy and public health. For more information, please visit RCC-SSA website, available at http://www.crc-sas.org/en/.
Finally, and important to highlight, Brazil was appointed by WMO as a Global Information System Center (GISC). GISCs primary role is to collect information from WIS contributing centres, in our case, countries in South America, in their area of responsibility, and forward the information for global distribution to the other GISCs. In this way, information used in the provision of weather, climate and water services and research is collected and distributed, both at regional and global levels, as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Funding, what are the main issues you see with funding and, in your experience, what is the best way to go by funding projects?
INMET is linked to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA), the latter is responsible for defining the Institute's annual budget. In order to complement budgetary needs, the Institute establishes partnerships with international organizations such as WMO and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA). These partnerships allow us to finance projects and develop new products, particularly in the area of agrometeorology.
We are also seeking sources of international resources, such as the Green Climate Fund, which is a global initiative designed to meet global warming mitigation and adaptation needs, and EUROCLIMA, which is a European Commission program which aims to encourage cooperation between Latin America and the EU in climate change issues.
Where do you see the future of meteorology in Brazil?
In comparison, the meteorological activities developed in Brazil do not fall short of those developed by more developed countries. In South America, we have the highest computational capacity, we have state-of-the-art weather and climate models, and we operate the largest network of meteorological stations in the region.
However, there is always room for growth and development. We need to advance in nowcasting (a technique for very short-range forecasting that maps the current weather and then uses an estimate of its speed and direction of movement to forecast the weather a short period ahead). In addition, progress needs to be made in data assimilation integration; become independent in the area of meteorological satellites (as strategic information of State, particularly over South America); integrate a mosaic with standard information of the area covered by weather radars.