Taiwan Area Mesoscale Experiment (TAMEX): Political Tension and Disaster Mitigation
Tang, Yin Hang Phoebe
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Every May and June, Taiwan undergoes a period of potentially disastrous heavy rain called mei-yu. The rain system induced by mei-yu on May 28, 1981 caused significant damages to Taiwan, prompting government officials to initiate the Taiwan Area Mesoscale Experiment (TAMEX). TAMEX was carried out by Taiwanese and American meteorologists from 1983 to 1992. They collaborated and took measurements of the atmosphere over and near Taiwan. Japanese meteorologists also participated by providing data. The meteorologists aimed to improve heavy rain forecast accuracy by gaining a better understanding of the structure, formation, duration, and evolution of mei-yu. The project, however, faced political obstacles owing to Taiwan’s unofficial diplomatic relations with Japan and the United States. This thesis investigates how political relations and scientific research influenced each other in the context of disaster mitigation. Even though Cold War politics prevented meteorologists from collaborating with each other formally, they constructed unofficial channels of exchanges. These exchanges were mostly justified scientifically and academically. In face of political obstacles, the pragmatic justification of disaster mitigation was also mobilized. This thesis thus argues that the need for disaster mitigation helps overcome political tension. Meteorologists collaborated informally to mitigate natural hazards during TAMEX. In the process, international networks were built and expanded. These resulted in further collaborations between the meteorologists, such as in the Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere, and Climate Program. The international contact established during TAMEX also was seized as opportunities for opening up communication channels that developed into the normalization of relations between the Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese meteorologists.