Our Director, Luke, spoke with Kemal Sehbajraktarevic to talk about the severe flooding in 2014 and collaboration with their neighbouring met services.
Could you give us an overview of the climate in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and some of the challenges that you face?
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a small area of 55,000 square kilometres and when we are talking about the climate there are three types of climate here. Bosnia is northern part and Herzegovina is the southern part. At the northern part, we have a moderate continental climate, with warm and dry summers, and humid and snowy winters. At the southern part, we have a Mediterranean climate, with extremely hot summers, and dry winters, with a very small amount of precipitation. The main features of that type of climate, the local feature is the very strong wind. The wind gusts go up more than 50 metres per second.
In the middle, in between these two climate types, there are the Dinaric Alps, which are approximately around 2,000 metres above sea level. Sometimes it’s alpine climate with a huge amount of snow during the winter and quite a lot of precipitation during the summer. The middle and southern parts are exposed to these extremely strong winds and the mountain chain is exposed to the worst of icing. So, for example, measuring wind, we have one station at the moment but we still didn't manage to have a continuous measurement there.
That sounds like there’s a lot of very different climates. How do you manage the challenge of working in meteorology in all of those different climates? There must be different experts and specialists working in these areas?
Not exactly. The met service of Bosnia Herzegovina is seen as the state itself, is divided so we have two met services, two entities, Federation of Bosnia Herzegovina where I live, and where I work in the Met Service Federation but there is another met service in the Republic, so-called the Republic of Srpska, they have their own met service.
Each of these services is responsible for its territory. The Republic of Srpska is mostly responsible for the northern part, they have most of the territory. The Federation is mostly the central and southern part of the Bosnia Herzegovina. Both services are extremely small, I think maybe the number of staff is probably the smallest in Europe for sure, but maybe in the world.
The whole staff of the Federation Met Services is about 80 and out of them maybe half are observers at met stations. Only 40 people work in the central building here in Sarajevo and we covered about five or six different fields. We have technology, we have hydrology, we have air quality, we have even astronomy, and meteorology. The main problem for us is the lack of personnel. Yes, different climate types ask for specific knowledge and specific staff, but we don't
Do you work closely with the met service in the Republic of Srpska?
Yes, we cooperate. After the war from 92 to 95, we spent maybe five years working separately and then after 2000 we started cooperating and exchanging data. Now it’s quite a good cooperation between the two met services. You know, meteorology without borders.
Have you noticed a change in the climate and the type of weather that you’re getting over the last, say, ten years?
The frequency of extreme weather. For example, in 2014 we had extreme flooding, extreme precipitation, and immediately after we had a drought. The frequency of such extreme weather has changed.
We mostly have extreme hot periods. For example, in the southern parts, we had temperatures of 46 degrees. These parts of Bosnia Herzegovina always had extremely warm summers, but this is something really, really extreme.
How well do you work with some of your neighbouring countries in terms of collaboration on meteorology? Do you work well with Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro?
Yes, our cooperation is quite good. All of us were part of the same country 20 years ago in Yugoslavia so there are no language barriers. We perfectly understand each other without any translators. That’s one thing which makes cooperation much easier than cooperation with, I don't know, England, or some other countries.
Under the WMO Organisation, we are part of ICSEED. Yearly, we have a meeting with the directors of South East Europe. There is quite a lot of ongoing projects, regional projects now under the EU, or the World Bank, especially in monitoring. This year, we’ve had three, or four regional projects covered by the EU about monitoring the tributaries of River Sana. The River Sana is at the northern border of Bosnia, and there are four or five main tributes from Bosnia Herzegovina and also two from Montenegro, Serbia and Croatia.
These projects are always regional. The EU encourages us to go with regional projects, and such projects have a better chance of getting funding from the EU. The cooperation, as I said before, is quite good for exchanges of knowledge. For example we don't have the radar here in Bosnia but Croatia’s radar covers around 50% of Bosnia so they send us the data from their radar.
In terms of your future plans for the met service, what are your priorities in terms of improving how you do things? What are your priorities for the next few years?
If you ask me what are the priorities, I would say training and education of the staff because we have a lack of personnel.
Secondly, our people often don't have a degree in meteorology because we don't have a met faculty here in Bosnia so they graduate in physics, or geography and then we send them to some kind of training so that they fit into regional projects. So for me, the priority is people, staff.
From the point of view of my director, the priority is hardware. He wants more stations and he wants radar.
Obviously, if you have more equipment you need the people to be able to manage it, maintain it, and use it.
Yes. For example, the hydrology project monitoring the tributaries now have about 40 automatic stations and we already don’t how to manage all of them. Okay, we are doing some kind of automisation, but you can't automate everything. Somewhere you need a man to sit down and see this data which are coming into that service and we can’t do that.
Do you send your staff outside the country to get training?
The WMO has many programmes for the training of the least developed countries, so the WMO is paying all the costs. We usually send three or four people during the year for around 20 days or one month during the year. However, this training is planned for the people who already have some level of knowledge. If you send people who don't have it, it’s a waste of time.