By Kinoshita Waka
In early June, I was surprised to see people in Ulaanbaatar not using umbrellas despite a rain shower. The rainfall was unexpected, but no one was carrying or using an umbrella – and a lot of people were outside. Don’t people hate getting wet in the rain? In the first place, do people have umbrellas? Or do people check the weather forecast? So to get answers, I decided to ask the citizens in Ulaanbaatar.
I asked people, including men and women from different walks of life, at Sukhbaatar Square. First, I asked “Do you usually use an umbrella?’’ Most of them answered, “Only when it rains a lot.” Then, I inquired, “Don’t you hate getting wet in the rain?’’
A young man (19) said, “Only downpours. I would rather like a little rain.’’ Other people also mention that they only hate getting wet by heavy rain. In Japan, even if it drizzles, most people lament that they don’t have an umbrella. According to these responses, it is not that Mongolian people don’t have or use an umbrella, but that people just accept the rain.
A man (55) said, “This is because it doesn’t rain often in Mongolia.” A woman (25) explained, “Rain contributes to relieving air pollution.”
In addition, I asked people about their use of weather forecasts and how often they check them. Most of them answered “Yes” and “I check the weather forecast on TV or phone”. But someone says “It depends on the weather. If it looks rainy, I check the weather forecast.”
These answers show that Mongolian people think flexibly about the weather and make assumptions themselves.
The woman (25) told me, “I think that short-range weather forecasts are better.”
Some people may question the need for weather forecasts. However, there are risks of serious damage from a flood, Dzud, air pollution, and so on. It is difficult to predict these natural disasters by oneself. So how do we protect ourselves from natural disasters? This is where the need for weather forecasts emerges as well.
“Of course, the most important thing for weather forecasting is disaster prevention,” says Yoshida Yuichi, a Japanese weather forecaster who has delivered the weather forecast in the Kansai region through a TV program.
In Japan, weather forecasters require national qualifications. In addition, according to the Japan Meteorological Business Support Center, the pass rate in the last 10 years has been only 4 to 5.8 percent. Only those who pass the examination can predict and broadcast a weather forecast.
Yoshida continued, “I suppose every weather forecaster will answer that way. Weather forecast is the only way we can expect and prevent future natural disasters. It is important to expect and warn accurately about natural disasters. Then, more people will become interested in regularly checking the weather forecast, I think. However, if it rains in a place where there is little rain, a serious disaster could occur. I am concerned that the effects of climate change associated with global warming may be more serious in a place such as Mongolia.”
“Also, (weather forecasts are important) especially for air pollution,” he stressed. “Weather forecasts cannot prevent air pollution directly. However, weather forecasts inform people how much the air pollution level is and can contribute to reducing the damage of air pollution. For example, in winter, when there is no wind and subsidence inversion layer appears, weather forecasts can inform people that the air pollution will be worse than usual.”
With a heads-up, people can make sure to wear a face mask and take other necessary measures to protect their health.
Now, in Japan, the contents of weather forecasts are diversifying, with information about UV intensity, air pollutants such as yellow dust from mainly Taklimakan Desert and Gobi Desert, diseases caused by the meteorological phenomenon, daily disaster countermeasures, and so on. These various topics related to meteorological phenomena are explained in weather reports, disseminating essential knowledge to the public. Even if it is not a rainy day, many Japanese people watch the weather forecast every day. However, this is just the situation in Japan.
In Mongolia, the weather and temperature change drastically every day. In addition, the weather varies depending on the season as it has an extreme climate. It was reported that it is difficult to accurately predict these changes in weather and temperature. In particular, I asked L.Oyunjargal, PhD, who is the director of Weather Forecasting Division of the National Agency for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring of Mongolia about the difficulties and outlook of weather forecasts.
She talked about the importance of weather forecasts, explaining, “In Mongolia, weather reports are very important to herders. The National Agency for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring provides key information for herders. Heavy snowfall, blizzards and strong winds are the most important weather information for Mongolians. It also provides detailed meteorological information to special sectors such as agriculture, railways, aviation, and road maintenance.”
Next, she shared about the public interest in weather-related information. “Mongolians have been checking the weather news regularly lately. Most Mongolians pay attention to precipitation. In addition to weather news, the agency issues a separate warning for disaster. People receive these warnings through their mobile phone apps and websites.” She indicated a growing interest in weather forecasts among the Mongolian population.
On the other hand, locals still face problems receiving warnings about extreme weather conditions and disasters in a timely manner.
“It is difficult for herders who live in remote areas to obtain this information quickly. And then, due to the recent heat wave in Mongolia, people with cardiovascular disease are suffering, but because of their lack of knowledge, people are not able to prevent their disease by using the weather forecast efficiently. However, we have just created a lot of educational content for the public. Therefore, I think the knowledge of citizens is increasing,” L.Oyunjargal continued.
“In general, it is difficult to forecast precipitation. Also, problems arise due to the small number of observation networks in Ulaanbaatar. Moreover, Mongolia has a very large territory. Mongolians read weather warnings but do not take precautions. Our equipment is improving and we are providing detailed information. However, the main thing is that people do not know what to do and how to prevent catastrophic weather events even after reading the weather forecast. Therefore, media outlets play an important role in informing the public.”
From this, it is clear that the public interest in weather forecasts in Mongolia is growing. However, there are problems related to transmission to people in remote areas such as herders, sufficiency of observation networks, and dissemination of knowledge about disaster prevention to people.
To summarize, the most important role of weather forecasts is to protect the lives of people from natural phenomena. Both concern the effect of climate change associated with global warming. Climate change is not visible, so while you think you don’t have to use your umbrella, a downpour or even some kind of a disaster may suddenly occur. Of course, you don’t have to use your umbrella all time – a little rain never hurts, right? But, for the sake of our well-being and safety, it is important to enhance our knowledge and use of weather forecasts by checking the weather news regularly and acquiring knowledge about the weather and disaster prevention.
Weather forecasting has a lot of potential in resolving daily challenges in your life, including exposure to social problems such as air pollution and disasters. In such a situation, it is meaningful for Mongolians to think and have an interest in weather forecasts.