Installation of Tonga's warning system, which is financed by the Munich Re Foundation, was held up by delays in obtaining the materials and the numerous technical trials required in the humid, tropical climate of the Pacific islands. Installation of the first two RANET stations on the main island was finally completed in March 2008. RANET stands for “Radio and Internet for the Communication of Hydro-Meteorological and Climate Related Information”. The project was designed to optimise meteorological services in the Pacific and improve early-warning procedures.
The new transmission stations at the Nuku’alofa meteorological centre and Fu’amotu airport are now ready to go into operation. Experts have begun on-site testing and trial transmissions and now want to press ahead with the installation of transmission stations on the more remote islands of the archipelago. Initially, another three stations will be constructed. If all goes well, more stations will follow, financed out of Tonga’s own resources.
The RANET systems, which will operate 24/7, all year round, transmit real-time warnings of impending windstorms and thunderstorms, as well as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis, to which Tonga is also prone. The denser the data network, the greater the benefit to those at risk and, of course, to air traffic and scientists (meteorological and other experts). As the system transmits meteorological readings in addition to warnings, weather forecasting in the island kingdom will also improve.