Monsoon forecasting for improved climate resilience in Sri Lanka

19/02/2019 - Monsoon prediction specialist Elena Surovyatkina from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) recently visited Sri Lanka on Government invitation for talks with representatives of the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources, the Ministry of Disaster Management, the Meteorological Department and the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University. Sri Lanka is a tropical insular state east of the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent. In a warming world, floods or droughts during monsoon period could become more frequent, potentially affecting millions of people. Long-term monsoon forecasts could help make Sri Lanka more climate resilient.
Monsoon forecasting for improved climate resilience in Sri Lanka
Elena Surovyatkina with Jörn Rohde, German Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Photo: PIK

According to the Disaster Management Center (DMS) in Sri Lanka, recently observed weather-related extremes like floods and droughts are becoming more frequent. Since 2010, floods and landslides caused by a heavy monsoon were noted almost every year. “The damages in 2016 amounted to 370 million US-Dollar. Current and projected future annual damages are expected to be between 100 to 150 million US-Dollar, said Eng. W.B. Palugaswewa, Director of the Ministry Irrigation Department. “The DMS desperately needs a long-term forecast of monsoon onset and withdrawal as a crucial component for disaster management”, stressed the Director General of Irrigation, Seenithamby Mohanarajah.

Prof. Sunil Wickramasuriya from General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) had followed Elena Surovyatkina’s research and the last 3 years of successful long-term monsoon forecasts for India at PIK. By his efforts, the Government of Sri Lanka invited Surovyatkina to visit and discuss possibilities to translate the Indian experience of successful forecasts of monsoon timing to Sri Lanka. Several meetings with Senior Officials, lectures and following discussions at the Government and the KDU resulted in the conclusion that the forecast of the withdrawal date of monsoon from India provided by Surovyatkina can be applied immediately for Sri Lanka as a long term warning of approaching Winter monsoon.

Additional joint efforts needed to develop a regional forecast of monsoon for Sri Lanka

Taking into account that Elena Surovyatkina issues the forecast of the withdrawal date of monsoon from India at the end of July, the Government of Sri Lanka and in particular the Disaster Management Center will be informed on the date of the beginning of Winter monsoon in Sri Lanka 70 - 80 days in advance. “Such a monsoon forecast will help both the Government and private sector for planning the agriculture season, managing water resources during the cultivation that can save the water, prevent damages to the infrastructures and carrying out preventive measures in the system of dams in order to prevent floods”, said the Director of Irrigations Janaki Meegastenna.

The German Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Jörn Rohde noted that the monsoon forecast was crucial for planning the duration touristic season as well. In particular, in 2018, the touristic season was closed on October 1, while winter monsoon started in November only – meaning a lost month for the tourism industry. The monsoon forecast was able to help both the Government and private companies to make informed decisions regarding the future growth of a sustainable Tourism sector, and for the millions of people who depend on it. 

The visit of Elena Surovyatkina to Sri Lanka was a part of the PIK project EPICC and also supported by the World Bank project "Climate Resilience Improvement Project (CRIP)". The director of CRIP Eng. D.C.S. Elakanada said that the monsoon forecast would be crucial to reduce the vulnerability of exposed people and assets to climate risk and to improve the government's capacity to respond effectively to disasters.


Weblink to PIK’s information page on the Indian Monsoon Forecast: