Raising accuracy is crucial

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Raising accuracy is crucial

Korea is getting slammed by unprecedented air pollution from China, which includes more hazardous fine particles. Since the Korea Meteorological Administration on Tuesday issued a serious low-visibility warning at Gimpo International Airport, 53 flights have been canceled. And at Incheon Airport to the west, 18 international flights were unable to land due to dismal visibility.

Despite such terrible air pollution, the National Institute of Environmental Research’s forecasts of fine particles have repeatedly fallen short. The accuracy rate of its forecasts stands at just 33.3 percent since last August, when it began forecasting fine-particle pollution measures.

It had to hurriedly ratchet up the level of its warning to “bad” at 11 a.m. Monday, up from only “slightly bad,” despite the serious health risks posed to the elderly and infirm. We are dumbfounded at the critical lack of accuracy in forecasting the arrival of fine particle smog from China.

Meteorological experts single out the institute’s meager experience - only six months - in forecasting fine particle smog and its heavy reliance on U.S. weather data as major handicaps. To raise the institute’s accuracy, the government must first increase mid- and long-term investments in the field. It must prioritize devising a forecast model of our own that can take advantage of local data from the Korea Meteorological Administration. Scientists must figure out precisely how the fine particles arrived here and actively work to combat and eliminate such dangerous smog.

The government must also encourage regional environmental agencies to take the lead in studying local smog patterns so that the institute can fully reflect those regional differences. The authorities also must increase the number of meteorological stations along the west coast in order to obtain enough data about the movement of fine particles to offer satisfactory forecasts.

In addition, through diplomatic channels and scientific exchanges, the government must secure the latest data on China’s emissions. If the authorities really want to provide pollution forecasts effective at least three days out to help citizens to prepare, scientific research and data accumulation is a must.

If necessary, the authorities can consider launching additional satellites to collect weather and environmental information or find other ways to obtain relevant data from foreign satellites. The job may require a huge amount of tax money, but it will soon be too late if the government continues to ignore the grim condition of our air quality.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 27, Page 30

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