The installation of the satellite in Vanuatu.
January 26, 2023
Climate Change Resilience

26 January 2023, Port Vila - Vanuatu is ranked as the world’s most vulnerable country to natural disasters. Climate change is increasing the impact of climate-induced disasters in the country such as flooding and cyclones.

For example, Tropical Cyclone Pam in 2015, a category 5 cyclone resulted in 11 fatalities, displacement of around 65,000 people and total losses costing VT48.6 billion with tourism and housing worst impacted. The recent, Tropical Cyclone Irene in 2023, a category 1 system caused landslides in Santo, elsewhere across the country coastal inundation, widespread flooding and damaged to agricultural crops.

Ensuring Vanuatu’s people have access to timely and accurate information about weather and climate is therefore crucial.

The Climate Information Services for Resilient Development in Vanuatu Project, known by its local Bislama acronym, VanKIRAP, is helping to improve access to climate information services throughout Vanuatu. In the northern island of Espiritu Santo, VanKIRAP has recently installed new climate monitoring equipment to provide climate information and early warning of severe weather events.

Last month, a new Automated Weather Station (AWS) was installed at the Vanuatu Agricultural Research and Training Centre in Luganville. Two Automatic Rainfall Gauges (ARG) were installed at the villages of Vunaspef and Sarakata Hydro. The installation was done by technicians from the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department (VMGD) and New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Studies (NIWA).

These installations are a significant upgrade to Vanuatu’s climate observation and early warning systems, according to VanKIRAP’s electronics engineer, Jino Moli.

"The AWS replaces manual weather stations. It provides more timely information; before, weather observers would have to take daily observations and relay this information manually to VMGD’s headquarters in Port Vila via UHF radio or telephone," said Mr Moli

"Each of the new devices is equipped with three communication options—a Vanuatu Government wireless broadband modem, a cellular phone connection, and a satellite transmitter. They mostly use the cellular phone network to transmit their data, but in places where there is no phone network or if the network goes down, they use the satellite connection."

"Thanks to the new equipment, it is now possible to monitor the weather directly in these locations 24/7, no matter the conditions.

Mr Moli says the new equipment is a major advance for Espiritu Santo because "the new AWS and ARGs are an early warning system, which is important because it helps people make better planning decisions about building infrastructure, water usage, and transportation."

Most importantly, says Mr Moli, "the new ARGs and AWS provide automated early warning notifications that help the communities at each installation location prepare for natural disasters that might affect their livelihoods".

VanKIRAP will install six more ARGs and seven AWSs on different islands of Vanuatu during 2023. Lajmoli, on the remote west coast of Espiritu Santo island, will be the site of the next AWS installation in February.

As part of the installation, NIWA also provided training for VMGD technicians on monitoring, sensor testing, troubleshooting, and communication and data logging configurations. The training was conducted by Christian Hyde, Environmental Monitoring Technician and Hue Tran, Environmental Information Technician, both from NIWA.

VanKIRAP’s funding support for the installations and training was made possible through the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and was coordinated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in collaboration with VMGD.