Archive for August, 2012

When you get torrential rains and there’s no storm brewing like we did these past weeks, how do you warn the public? You can’t raise a storm signal – no typhoon, remember – so what do you do?

If you were Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), you’d come up with a new rainfall warning system. Introduced this June, the idea is simple enough. Create a simple, foolproof system that will alert the masses of how heavy the downpour is or will be, and based on the warning level, people can make informed decisions.

The Philippines regularly experiences heavy rains particularly during the months of May to October. The southwest monsoon (locally known as habagat) season can bring in heavy downpours which leave some parts of the country devastated. So the idea of having a warning system in such cases is a laudable one.

Unfortunately, the color-coding scheme originally adapted by the weather bureau goes against common knowledge, and may I say, common sense. The scheme, patterned after Hong-Kong Observatory’s three-level alert system, uses three colors, green, yellow, and red.

Without explanation as to what each color represents, how would you arrange the severity based on those three colors? I would take a gamble, and guess that you’d associate said colors with something very familiar to all motorists and commuters alike:

Green means go, or everything’s still fine.
Yellow means caution, be alert and be prepared.
Red means stop, take safety measures.

Makes sense, right? Except that’s wrong. Here’s the original scheme used by PAGASA:


Notice that the lowest level is Yellow, not Green. Why anyone would use this setup is beyond me. Using colors that everyone is already familiar with, and then mixing them up is just asking for it, in my opinion.

Then, in a move as idiotic as the original problem, they changed the scheme mid-crisis. PAGASA has changed green to orange, presumably after someone from the bureau noticed that traffic lights are everywhere.

This is now the new scheme:

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It makes more sense, but the timing could have been better. Couldn’t they have, I don’t know, maybe, just maybe waited until situations all around have gotten a little better?

A great idea mired by thoughtlessness and incompetence.