IOI-Malta embarks on an Interreg III - ARCHIMED project on Weather Risk Reduction in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean (RISKMED) It is well known that our society is vulnerable to severe weather events, including heavy rainfall, lightning strokes, high winds and waves (especially in coastal areas) as well as extreme high and low temperatures, which tend to have an adverse impact on humans as well as on a large number of social and economic activities. The Mediterranean is an area notorious for such extreme events, mainly due to the formation of Mediterranean storms in autumn and winter, and the occurrence of high surface temperatures (heat waves) during summer. With climate change such events are becoming more frequent, and are expected to become wilder in the future.

The accurate prediction of adverse weather events and the timely dissemination of warnings to the relevant authorities and to the public is a very important but also demanding task. RISKMED is an Interreg III Archimed project that is targeting to address this problem through the setting up of a proto-type atmospheric early warning system that will provide accurate and detailed weather forecasts for the Central and Eastern Mediterranean and will disseminate the corresponding warnings.

The project is partly financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Interreg III Community Initiative, which forms part of the Structural Funds Programme for Malta (2004-2006).

The scientific work includes the extensive use of satellite observations and lightning data; the optimization of high resolution meteorological models for storm forecasting purposes; the combined use of meteorological and wave models for forecasting hazardous wave conditions; and finally the use of all these observations, models and techniques in order to build an early warning system that will provide well in advance the necessary information (warnings) to the end-users (regional authorities and civil defense agencies).

The project is led by the Greek agency NOA – National Observatory of Athens, Institute for Environmental Research and Sustainable Development and brings together a consortium of eight partners from Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Malta with clear interests and expertise in the subject. The Physical Oceanography Unit of the IOI-Malta Operational Centre (IOI-MOC) at the University of Malta is the Maltese partner. The implementation of the Maltese tasks in RISKMED will be coordinated by Dr. Aldo Drago, Director of the IOI-MOC.

The Maltese Islands will benefit from RISKMED in various ways. The project will provide a new tool to improve our capacity to anticipate such adverse natural phenomena, which can be crucial to mitigate hazards and reduce impacts. In the project implementation, IOI-MOC will furthermore bring together local expertise, through consultations with key local entities/agencies (including the Meteorological Office in Luqa, the Civil Protection Department, the Armed Forces of Malta and the Malta Maritime Authority), to support a framework for contingency planning in emergency conditions and will ensure the optimal use of project outputs for applications by such entities/agencies.

While routine meteo observations are already operational, we cannot say the same for the marine environment. The PO-Unit at IOI-MOC is already engaged in real time observations of sea level and atmospheric pressure within the MedGLOSS project, and is currently embarking to set up a system for the operational monitoring of sea waves and currents outside Marsaxlokk Bay. RISKMED will be contributing to further extend the observational infrastructure in key coastal areas.

The involvement in the RISKMED project will also offer an opportunity for the continued participation of the local Maltese community in key marine-related research and technological development efforts being carried out in Europe. IOI-MOC has already established a high profile in Europe and in the Mediterranean through its participation and even coordination of several projects funded by the EC Framework Programmes.