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"Normal, with big rains"

W ITHOUT a dose of El Nino black magic, the forthcoming rainy season is going to

be "normal, with big rains", predict experts. El Nino, the warming of the

Pacific ocean, was responsible of the devastating floods and drought that

occurred last year in Cambodia. "The climate in Cambodia is rapidly changing

because they are cutting down the trees, warns Andrew Duncan. "The trees have a

regulating effect on floods. They act like a fence stopping the rain from

rushing down into the valleys."

Last January, LWS started the gathering

of climatological data from 1906 to 1994. Amassing more and more information

about the climate in Cambodia over a hundred-year period will eventually allow

researchers and forecasters to predict flash floods. Forecasters will be able to

pinpoint the location and severity of tropical cyclones and thunderstorms

through increased forecasting accuracy.

In understanding how much the

climate has changed since the beginning of the century, meteorologists expect to

bring unprecended clarity to Cambodian weather maps. Forecasters hope to predict

variation in rainfall from one province to the next, which is important in

agriculture.

Says Duncan: "It's probably going to take one or two years

to input all these data that have been put down by hand. What we are doing is to

set up a data base called Climcom. This is a world meteorological package. At

the moment, very little of this information has been published. It will be very

valuable for any type of research regarding the construction of dams, bridges,

roads, and the prevention of floods which still handicap harvesting. After

looking at the rainfall, river's height, evaporation, wind, sunlight figures,

temperature, we can make an evaluation of what to plant."

He adds:"A lot

of these data were lost or destroyed during the Khmer Rouge. But we still have

the old data recorded by the French."

"But apparently," he says, "at the

National Meteorological Center at Pochentong, this data has been stored in an

unprotected area, exposed to sunlight, rain and... birds that take these records

for nesting." He adds: "We need to preserve these data. This is part of

Cambodia's heritage".

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