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Oman Boosts Climate-Change Studies in Wake of Deadly Storms

In the wake of a deadly tropical cyclone, Oman’s Sultan Qaboos University has launched new research programmes and courses in meteorology and climate change.

The university has also set up 10 stations to monitor earthquakes in and around the capital, Muscat, and plans six more.

Yaseen Abdulrahman Al-Sharaabi, director of the university’s Center for Environmental Studies and Research, said: “It is important to gain a greater understanding of these natural disasters, how to deal with them, and mitigate their effects.”

He told Al-Fanar Media in an e-mail that recent research showed there was “an increase in the incidence of cyclones and tropical storms” in the Indian Ocean.

In early October, Tropical Cyclone Shaheen hit the coast of Oman’s Al-Batinah North Governorate, killing 12 people. It also damaged roads and other infrastructure, and brought down telecommunications and power lines.

Shaheen was the fifth deadly storm in Oman since Tropical Cyclone Gonu killed 50 people and caused damage estimated at $4.2 billion in June 2007. With winds peaking at 240 kilometres per hour (150 miles per hour), Gonu was the strongest storm on record in the Indian Ocean.

Threat to the Arabian Peninsula

Al-Sharaabi, who won the 2014 National Prize for Scientific Research, said studies indicate that tropical storms in the Arabian Sea are increasingly “moving towards the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula, specifically towards the coasts of the sultanate.”

“It is important to gain a greater understanding of these natural disasters, how to deal with them, and mitigate their effects.”

Yaseen Abdulrahman Al-Sharaabi
Director of the university’s Center for Environmental Studies and Research

This, he said, “means the necessity of expanding the studies of the impact of climate change on the sultanate.”

The university’s department of geography has opened an environment sub-specialty, he said, as well as introducing courses on meteorology and climate change and related issues.

In a phone call with Al-Fanar Media, Abdullah Baabood, who is currently a professor at Japan’s Waseda University, said storms could threaten the national security of Oman and other Gulf countries.

“We, in the Gulf region, are in dire need of expansion in natural science studies, in light of the exposure of Oman and the Gulf states to significant climatic changes, which will negatively affect its oil reserves,” he said.

Baabood, a former Director of the Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University, added: “Human and community security has become a major focus for countries, in designing human and social science programs as a whole and not just in its security aspect.”

This “enhances the ability of governments of these countries to reduce the risk of environmental disasters,” he said.

First Line of Defense

Research produced by scientists at Sultan Qaboos University may have helped authorities anticipate what would happen and reduce the human and economic losses caused by Cyclone Shaheen.

study, titled “The Geospatial Modeling of Tropical Cyclone Risk Along the Northeast Coast of Oman,” was published in the July issue of Marine Policy, the leading international journal of ocean policy studies, three months before the storm.

Al-Sharaabi said the university is cooperating with institutions such as the Omani Environment Authority, the Environmental Conservation Office at the Diwan of Royal Court, the National Center for Field Studies for Environmental Conservation, and the Civil Aviation Authority, which provides weather and climate data to the public and researchers.

“We have implemented a comprehensive development plan of the seismic event monitoring system, by installing a strong seismic motion monitoring network.”

Issa El-Hussain  
Director of the Earthquake Monitoring Center

Meanwhile, the university has launched a new project to monitor strong seismic movement in all Omani cities, by installing ten stations in the Governorate of Muscat. It will be followed by six other stations in the seismic monitoring network, and 40 strong-motion stations next year.

Founded in the mid-1990s, the university’s Earthquake Monitoring Center is the only specialised center in the sultanate that monitors earthquakes inside and outside Oman and publishes its data.

In an email, Issa El-Hussain, the quake center’s director, told Al-Fanar Media: “We have implemented a comprehensive development plan of the seismic event monitoring system, by installing a strong seismic motion monitoring network. It consists of a number of devices and stations.”

According to studies conducted by the center, the parts of Oman most vulnerable to earthquakes are the northern Governorates of Musandam, Al-Batinah North and South, and Muscat.

A New Unesco Chair

In partnership with Unesco, Sultan Qaboos University recently launched a Unesco chair on the hazards of earthquakes and tsunami, with the aim of developing training methods and capacity building of specialists to reduce earthquake and tsunami risks.

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Unesco chair is a research project at a university that studies a topic that is a priority for both the institution and Unesco.

El-Hussein, head of the new Unesco chair at Sultan Qaboos University, explained that the project’s aim is to “establish an integrated system for research, training, and dissemination of information … knowledge and experiences.”

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