The Climate Challenge from a Georgian Perspective

Climate change is a reality we can no longer ignore. Many have observed unprecedented changes since the 1950s. We see the impacts in our everyday lives- the warming of the atmosphere and ocean water, reduction in the amount of snow and ice, the rise of the sea level and an increase in greenhouse gas concentration.

The National Environmental Agency (NEA) is a state institution that observes and monitors the climate change process. What has been done to observe this process?

The hydrometeorological observation network of NEA comprises 11 manual meteorological stations, 14 meteorological gauges, 73 automated meteorological stations as well as 19 manual hydrological gauges and 45 automated hydrological stations. Regular meteorological and hydrological observation is performed on basic meteorological elements; the transfer and processing of data recieved from the stations into electronic format is done on location and by the Agency’s meteorological and climatological unit specialists in accordance with World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reccommendations.

The data gained from relatively long-term (over 30 years) observation points is used for studying climate change and research.

Our overall goal in this direction is to enhance the observation network by increasing the number of stations, to introduce modern technologies in the field and to analyze the risks associated with climate change regarding the extent of climate change impact on water resources, agriculture, etc.

According to the NEA research and statistics, what trends are emerging today in Georgia? Which parts of the country are most vulnerable to climate change?

The instrumental meteorological observation in Georgia dates back to 1837 while regular observation has been carried out since the early 20th century. From the mid 1950s, the meteorological observation data has been collected gained from the whole territory of Georgia.

During the last 25 years, for most of the western part of Georgia, the temperature has increased by on average 0.3 - 0.50 0C, the most rapid rise was indicated in the east part of Eastern Georgia, where the temperature increment indicated 0.4 - 0.70C. The annual overall precipitation change in the past half century was of mosaic character. For most of the western part of Georgia we observed an increase in precipitation by 5-10%; for most of the eastern part of Georgia, unlike Western Georgia, over the last 25 years there has been a reduction of precipitation by 5% compared with the previous period.

Does climate change result in an increase in various natural disasters?

The impact of climate change on geological processes is inevitable. Long and abundant precipitation, as well as snowfalls, lead to floods/flashfloods, landslides and debris-flows, avalanches and high likelihood of extreme weather-related natural hazards. This is in addition to land erosion processes in the sea coastal zone as well as along river banks.

Research and statistics clearly indicate the activation of these processes during the last several decades, which resulted in a higher number of casualties and great damage to the country’s economy and natural ecosystems.

What impact can climate change have on various economic sectors?

The negative impact of climate change on the agricultural sector results in an increase of drought frequency and power, in a change of temperature regimes and precipitation volume, and other factors which in turn leads to changes in crop sowing periods, vegetation phase duration, yield and irrigation matters.

In terms of energy safety, most alarming is the decline of water resources - a negative result of climate change which can create problems for the water resource based Georgian energy sector.

That said, at present Georgia has no water resource related problems, but intensive melting of glaciers and floods, during which a lot of water is wasted, causes enormous damage to the environment in general and in the near future this will result in a lack of water resources.

One should note the growing interest of energy, tourism and construction industries to prepare for such future scenarios.

These scenarios should be taken into account in different aspects of planning (for example, modification of dam design, agricultural potential and alternative agricultural insurance), particularly where weather extremes are main determinants.

World Meteorological Day is celebrated around the wrodl annually on 23rd of March. Can you tell us more about it and if the NEA joined the celebrations this year?

World Meteorological Day was founded in 1950 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), an intergovernmental organization established for meteorology and having a membership of around 191 worldwide Member States including Georgia.

Each year, the celebrations focus on a theme of topical interest and this year’s theme, “Hotter, drier, wetter. Face the Future,” was chosen to illustrate the reality of climate change.

The NEA, as a member of the international meteorological community, celebrates Meteorological Day annually. I would like to take this opportunity and congratulate all Meteorologists in Georgia and around the world and wish them professional growth!

Tamar Bagratia is head of the National Environmental Agency


Tamar Bagratia

24 March 2016 20:55