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Photo: H.Abdel Nabi

Lautenbacher, Jr. defends US warning systems vis a vis Hurricane Katrina

By Hedayat Abdel Nabi, journalist, writer and KUNA Chief - Geneva –

US Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr. defended the US warning systems prior to the Katrina Hurricane.

Lautenbacher, Jr said that the warning systems were very good, the number of people killed was less than anticipated, however he noted that it is important to prevent every single loss of life.

Talking in a news conference on the newly created Group on Earth Observations (GEO), he added that Hurricane Katrina was a very large event, an event that was greater than the hurricane event the US was engaged in before.

He warned that more than half of the peoples of the world today live on coastal areas, which have become incredibly crowded and need more attention in relation to natural disasters.

Lautenbacher, Jr said that the US has committed USD 900 million for the Earth Observation.
Deputy Administrator, Chinese Meteorological Administration, Zheng Guoguang told reporters that natural disasters in China during the first 9 months of this year resulted in the death of 1630 people and caused 163 billion RMB direct damage to China.

Director General for Research, European Commission Achilleas Mitsos said that the importance of this new intergovernmental partnership is that it would allow for exchange of knowledge and the utilization of such knowledge.

Director-General of the Department of Science and Technology, Republic of South Africa Rob Adam said that the developing countries will benefit from this new partnership in narrowing the data gaps and in improving the technical capabilities of their systems.

Today's meeting was to announce the plans for the creation of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).
As a "system of systems," GEOSS will work with and build upon existing national, regional, and international systems to provide comprehensive, coordinated Earth observations from thousands of instruments worldwide, including satellites, buoys, seismometers, and other devices, transforming the data they collect into vital information for society.

GEOSS will yield a broad range of basic societal benefits, including the reduction of loss of life and property from tsunamis, hurricanes, and other natural disasters; improved water resource and energy management; and improved understanding of environmental factors significant to public health.

The senior leadership of GEO, includes the new Director and the four GEO Co-Chairs from China, the European Commission, South Africa and the United States. 58 governmnets and 47 international orgnaizations are members of the new group.

GEO Secretariat Director José Achache, told reporters that "what we would like to do is to have a database on the environment and earth similar to that of Google".

He added that the new intergovernmental effort can in the future alert peoples against the movement of sand for example that is a cause of Meningitis.
Achache stressed that diseases like Malaria and Meningitis are related to climate conditions.