"Thank an Oceanographer!"

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Pacific features in Global Ocean Observing Conference

“When you’re sick, you go to the doctor. Our oceans are sick and we need the scientists and experts to help us understand what is wrong and how to get better.”Peter Thomson, UN Special Envoy for the Ocean

On 16 September, this call from the Pacific’s own ocean ambassador was heard by more than 1,500 ocean scientists, technologists, advocates, and thought leaders from 72 countries present at the OceanObs’19 Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii. The conference, held every 10 years, aims to bridge the gap between the scientific aspects of ocean observing and the applications and benefits to society.

Spotlight on the Pacific

For the first time since its inception in 1999, the conference was held in the Pacific and Pacific Island countries represented 14% of the 72 participating countries. Through the Australian Climate and Oceans Support Program in the Pacific (COSPPac), the Pacific Community (SPC) was able to identify and support participants from Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu Meteorological Services to attend the global conference.

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Indigenous delegation welcome 

Recognition of indigenous ocean knowledge played a significant role in the conference proceedings. On day one, all the indigenous delegates were welcomed to introduce themselves in plenary. A Coastal Indigenous People’s Declaration, the Aha Honua, was prepared and presented on the final day of the conference, calling for the ocean observing community to establish meaningful partnerships with indigenous communities.

In addition, SPC-funded participants prepared and presented science posters that they developed, highlighting the work their Met Services are doing in ocean observations, forecasting, and providing tailored information services to the public.

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Mauna Eria, Kiribati Met Service

“My poster is about the new wave forecasting model that was developed by the Pacific Community to assist TMS with wave forecast. This wave forecasting model has really improved the service that TMS is delivering in terms of the public weather forecast in times of severe weather.” – Tavau Vaaia Simiona, Forecast Scientific Officer, Tuvalu Meteorological Service

“My poster is mainly looking at how to turn scientific information into more tailored products for communities. Taking scientific data and making it more simple for local communities.” – Allan Rarai, Manager Climate Services, Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department

“My poster is about science services. It’s about impact based services that provide information to decision-makers so they can know the background of the ocean science and they can use it in decision making.” – Mauna Eria, Quality Assurance Officer, Kiribati Meteorological Service

“My poster is on how Tonga Met Service have modernized our forecasting system, especially our observations and how far we have come. Since the beginning of our service, we relied on Fiji to provide our weather bulletin. But we have improved a lot and now we have nine graduate meteorologists. It is a great achievement for the Met Service and the Government of Tonga.” –Seluvaia Finaulahi, Climate Officer, Tonga Meteorological Service

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Arieta Baleisolomone, Fiji Met Service

“Fiji Met Service is looking at providing Ocean Services, based on the feedback we got from stakeholder engagement on the different products and services that they want us to provide. Based on that, we developed our first seasonal ocean bulletin using the Ocean Data Portal. I’ve highlighted the current status that we have in Fiji on coastal hazards, such as sea level rise, coastal inundation, king tides. In partnership with SPC, we managed to develop our ocean outlook bulletin and also working with SPC we also managed to come up with a wave forecasting tool.” – Arieta Baleisolomone, Climate Officer, Fiji Meteorological Service 

Overheard at OceanObs’19

“If you like your weather forecast, thank an oceanographer.” – Craig McLean, NOAA, USA

“Our ancient chants say what exists on land is reproduced in the ocean. What we do on land, impacts the ocean. Alongside science, the Aha Moku system of traditional resource management informs policy in Hawaii.” – Paulokaleioku (Timmy) Bailey, Native Hawaiian Resource Protection and Management, USA

“To improve understanding and uptake of ocean warnings, we go straight to the coastal communities, to ask how they receive messages and what they understand. Collaboration is key.” – Bennet Atsu Foli, University of Ghana, Ghana

 “It has taken me nine years working in the nexus of science and indigenous knowledge to find a common language. It takes time!” – Kalei Nu’uhiwa, University of Hawaii, USA

“A very small heat increase in the ocean results in a huge change in the atmospheric system. This effects the number and intensity of hurricanes we see.” – Sarah Purkey, Scripps Institution of Oceanography , USA

“We assume the data supply chain is linear. But governments and business are more than the end of the supply chain. They are key partners in the digital ecosystem.” – Lauren Weatherdon, UNEP-WCMC, UK

“We don’t learn by one-way communication. We learn by doing. As kids we learned by playing in the sandbox. That’s how people get excited about science.” – Emmanuel Boss, University of Maine, USA

“Ocean observations are as important if not more important than weather observations. We haven’t successfully captured the imagination of the public or politicians if we can’t mobilize more support.” – Wendy Watson-Wright, The Ocean Frontier Institute, Canada

“We’ve made tremendous progress. We have so much more data, but next it’s about turning that data into products that meet user needs. That’s what the UN Ocean Decade is about. From data to knowledge to action.” – Martin Visbeck, GEOMAR, Germany

 

Participants’ Conference Highlights

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Arona Ngari, Cook Islands Met Service

“The highlight for me is seeing the integration of the OceanObs what they can bring to the fore in terms complementing atmospheric observations. We see this as an opportunity to actually enhance our capability to do forecasting let alone to enhance our capability to live the life that we always live which is oceans which brings sustenance and livelihoods to our people especially those in the remote areas. I’m very fortunate to be part of this and looking forward to implementing some projects in the near future and also looking to the bigger picture in 10 years’ time.” – Arona Ngari, Director, Cook Islands Meteorological Service

 “There’s a lot of highlights for me. The main one is how we have the coastal observation is not very common in the Pacific so seeing many ideas and information shared in this conference gives me more insight into what we can develop in terms of observation in our islands. We still need more capacity building. We see many other organisations with what they develop, I think that’s what we want in the Pacific.” – Allan Rarai, Manager Climate Services, Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department

“For this OceanObs there’s a lot that I can say, but just one thing that highlights the most for me is seeing the gap between those that already have the oceanographic knowledge and instruments to us- and we don’t have it. As an oceanographer it’s is a really huge gap that I see that is there. For me myself, I’m trying to build the bridge that could help solve this and will help lessen the problems we’re going to get in the future in terms of observation and marine forecasts for us in the Solomon Islands.” – Danny Shadrach, Oceanographer, Solomon Islands Meteorological Service

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Faapisa Aiono, Samoa Met Service

“It’s an honour and a privilege to be part of OceanObs’19. It’s been amazing sharing and learning from people around the globe with their ocean observing information and all the work that they’re doing. There’s a lot of highlights for me but the main highlight for me was being part of and learning from the indigenous group. This is their first appearance in OceanObs. Knowing that they’re really making a stand for TK and me presenting about TK poster here has really given me a lot of insight about what’s going on around the globe in terms of TK. And also sharing lessons learnt from other communities as well, other indigenous communities, lessons learnt, the way forward… I’m so excited for the work that’s going to be in the next 10 years for OceanObs.”  – Faapisa Aiono, Senior Climate Officer, Samoa Meteorological Service

“There’s a lot of highlights during the conference, but attending the plenary sessions was really interesting to learn from the experts, the oceanographers, the coastal engineers. I was really happy to meet some of them and ask questions that I think will improve the work that I’m doing for TMS. I’m really glad I joined this conference and thanks to the Pacific Community for bringing me here. Thank you very much.” – Tavau Vaaia Simiona, Forecast Scientific Officer, Tuvalu Meteorological Service

“It was an honour and a big eye-openner for me, when you get to see the vast information that’s available with reference to ocean. One of the statements that hit me on the first day, one of the oceanographers said “If you like your weather forecast, thank an oceanographer.” That statement got me thinking throughout the week. In terms of the weather forecaster you need from the ocean, atmosphere you need to put them together to get a quality weather forecast.”  – Arieta Baleisolomone, Climate Officer, Fiji Meteorological Service

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About COSPPac: 

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Since its launch in 2012, COSPPac has worked to build the capacity of Pacific Island Meteorological Services and other relevant agencies to understand and apply climate, ocean and sea level information for the benefit of island governments and communities. COSPPac is now onto its second phase and is managed by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology in partnership with SPC, Geoscience Australia, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), and is a key component of the Australian Government’s support to Pacific Island countries in adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate variability and change.

For more Info:
Contact Molly Powers-Tora, Team Leader Ocean Literacy & Maritime Capacity, [email protected]

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