Progress and priorities outlined at WMO Africa regional meeting
Marrakech/Geneva, 8 November 2010 (WMO) – Progress has been made in strengthening the capacity of national meteorological services in Africa to issue reliable weather forecasts, climate predictions and hazard warnings. But more remains to be done, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s Regional Association for Africa.
Representatives of 37 African Member States who met from 1 to 8 November in Marrakech, Morocco, discussed how African National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) and regional centres can effectively provide and deliver services in support of national and regional development goals. This included, among others, better climate predictions and assessments which will be key to promoting adaptation to climate variability and change. Africa is the continent most vulnerable to climate change and least equipped to cope.
The conference, held every four years, also discussed how to improve weather forecasts and warnings of severe weather events such as tropical cyclones and other natural hazards like sandstorms; and to strengthen multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk reduction programmes. A severe weather forecasting system has been introduced in 16 southern African nations and a pilot project will be launched in 2011 for Eastern African countries including Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.
In a changing climate, the preservation of water resources is another vital challenge for Africa, and the meeting agreed there is an urgent need to strengthen hydrological structures and boost cooperation with regional bodies concerned with water.
“All too frequently, a combination of droughts, failed harvests and the rise in global food prices has threatened millions in Africa, as occurred over the period 2009-2010. However, extreme disasters have also taken the form of flooding or other catastrophes,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud told the meeting.
“Nonetheless, despite a mounting trend in the global occurrence of disasters and related economic losses, the loss of life associated with weather, water and climate hazards continues to drop, showing that preparedness, effective emergency management and appropriate early warning systems can make a difference,” he said. “This is a difference which depends critically on the capabilities of the NMHSs.”
For instance, the development of meteorology in Morocco, and in particular improvement in providing accurate long-range forecasts and warnings, have limited the loss of human life and physical damage arising from torrential rains over the past two years, according to Morocco’s Secretary of State for Water and the Environment, Abdelkebir Zahoud.
Mr Lamine Bah, President of the African Regional Association, told the meeting that there is a critical need to enhance operational capacities of NMHSs, including increasing their visibility at national level, and to help improve available tools and expertise. These included efficient data monitoring, data storage and processing, communications and capacity-building.
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