World Meteorological Congress Sets Priorities for Next Four Years
New tools to cope with climate change impacts top the agenda
Geneva, 3 June (WMO) – The World Meteorological Congress today endorsed an ambitious global initiative that will help all communities, and in particular the most vulnerable, cope with the impact of climate change, reduce the risk of natural disasters and safeguard food production, water supplies and health.
The Global Framework for Climate Services will boost the availability of climate information needed by policy-makers and people to plan ahead and to take decisions that are sustainable in a changing climate. It will be a global undertaking involving a wide array of stakeholders.
Congress decided that the Global Framework will be one of the top five priorities of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in the next four years. The others are: enhanced contribution to disaster risk reduction; improved observation and information systems; and to strengthen the capacity of developing countries to share in scientific advances and their applications; and more efficient meteorological services for the aviation sector.
Outgoing President Dr Alexander Bedritskiy said the decisions will strengthen WMO and the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) of its 189 Members in the quest to protect lives and livelihoods from the impacts of weather, climate and water hazards and to contribute to sustainable development.
“Whatever chain you take, it is always only as strong as its weakest link. We need to make sure the links of our international cooperation are mutually strong, so that the results of our activities will be even greater,” said Dr Bedritskiy.
WMO is the UN system’s authoritative scientific voice on weather, water and climate.
Global Framework for Climate Services
Climate services are vital to manage climate risks and seize opportunities, and protect lives and livelihoods, but often do not reach communities which are most vulnerable to climate change.
The Global Framework should close the gaps in the provision of existing information and services. Its primary goal is to ensure greater availability of, access to, and use of climate services for all countries. Currently around 70 developing countries have little or no climate information. It will serve as a permanent platform for dialogue between providers of climate services (essentially National Meteorological and Hydrological Services) and users ranging from policy-makers to farmers and fishermen.
The Global Framework promises to unleash the full potential of billions of dollars invested in climate observation systems, research, and information management systems. This will yield massive benefits to the community, especially in disaster risk management, improved water management, sustainable agriculture and health protection.
Initial implementation costs are an estimated US$75 million per year – focussed on building capacity in vulnerable developing countries.
In a message delivered at the opening of the Congress, UN Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon described the Global Framework as vital to assist the poorest and most vulnerable countries adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change.
An extraordinary session of the World Meteorological Congress will be held in 2012, with participation of all relevant stakeholders including other UN bodies to review and adopt the draft implementation plan of the Global Framework.
Congress adopted a restructured and strengthened World Climate Programme and decided that it will be a key programme in the delivery of the Global Framework. The programme’s responsibilities include climate observations and monitoring, climate research activities, and support for operational, sustainable climate services, including the establishment of a global network of Regional Climate Centres.
Regional and National Climate Outlook Forums will strengthen national capacities and will be an important channel for dialogue between providers and users of climate information. Congress supported an initiative to develop a Global Seasonal Climate Update to expand the successful El Niño Update to include other large-scale climatic phenomenon.
Congress also called for improving climate data management and the associated analysis tools, and strengthening the exchange of the data and products needed for user-oriented climate services.
Disaster Risk Reduction:
Disaster risk management will become even more important as the frequency and intensity of extreme events is expected to increase as a result of climate change which will lead to increasing volatility of water supply and food security and the risk of large population movements.
Many Members are making progress in developing disaster risk reduction capacity and planning.
Increasingly, countries are shifting their policies from post disaster response to multi-sectoral preparedness and prevention as part of overall national development programmes, thus increasing the need for meteorological, hydrological and climate services. Congress stressed the need for strong relationships between NMHSs and disaster risk management agencies.
Congress urged a strengthening of Disaster Risk Reduction activities at national, regional and international level, with a focus on early warning systems, hazard databases and forecasts. Emphasis should be on resilience and prevention through better education and outreach activities, and integration of meteorological, hydrological and climate products in activities such as land use planning. It urged stronger cooperation and partnerships of WMO and NMHSs in national, regional and international forums.
The Tropical Cyclone Programme has helped Members establish national and regional warning systems to ensure that the loss of life and damage caused by tropical cyclones is reduced to a minimum. Congress said the programme should be further strengthened to help Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States strengthen their capacity and deliver more accurate and timely warnings of tropical cyclones and associated flooding.
Other initiatives like the Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project, which has proved particularly successful in southern Africa and the South-west Pacific, should also be expanded.
The Hydrology and Water Resources Programme should be strengthened to help reduce risks of water-related disasters and meet the growing needs for sustainable water resources management given the challenges of population growth and climate change which is expected to lead to more droughts and floods, Congress said.
Congress urged continued efforts under the Agricultural Meteorology Programme to combat desertification and land degradation, alleviate the effects of droughts and floods on agriculture, promote sustainable farming systems, and improve the communication of weather and climate information to farming communities to make them more resilient to climate change and seasonal fluctuations. It approved the use of a standardized meteorological drought index to improve the drought monitoring and early warning systems.
The Marine Meteorology and Oceanography Programme aims to improve maritime safety services and help in disaster risk reduction in coastal zones, in cooperation with the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. Congress welcomed the successful expansion of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System to include five new Arctic METAREAS, thus enabling provision of weather and sea ice safety information to the increasing number of vessels which navigate Arctic waters. These became operational 1 June 2011, with the meteorological services issued by Canada, the Russian Federation and Norway.
Observing and Information Systems
There has been significant progress in meteorology in the past few decades as a result of advances in research, numerical modelling, observing capabilities, and computer and communication technologies. Further progress will depend on adopting a new, integrated approach to upgrading the WMO observing system.
Congress decided that priority should be given to the WMO Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS) to enable it to become operational by 2016.
Described as “Our Planet’s Future Hub for Weather, Climate and Water Observations,” WIGOS will contribute to a better understanding of our environment. This is essential for meeting the observational needs of the Global Framework for Climate Services, disaster risk reduction and aeronautical meteorology, amongst others.
The WMO Information System is a pillar of the WMO strategy for managing, moving and accessing weather, water and climate information in the 21st century. It will be the core information system providing linkages for all WMO and supported programmes associated with weather, climate, water, and related natural disasters. It is being built upon the Global Telecommunication System of the WMO World Weather Watch, using standard elements and at a pace feasible for all Members. Congress endorsed the basic technical regulatory document of WIS - the Manual on WMO Information System and designated the first 100 WIS centres. This included five Global Information System Centres which are ready for operation.
The World Weather Watch, which is the “backbone” of all WMO Programmes, coordinates world-wide systems for observing and exchanging meteorological and related data, and for generating and disseminating analyses and forecasts, as well as severe weather advisories and warnings. Congress saw a need to further strengthen public awareness of this unique programme which contributes to the security of life and property and sustainable development.
The Public Weather Services Programme cooperates with media partners to provide reliable and effective weather and related services to the public and other user communities. Congress said significant progress had been made to further strengthen the recognition of NMHSs as the authoritative source of warnings and public weather forecasts. The World Weather Information Services website is now hosted in nine languages and receives 124 million page visits per month.
The Global Climate Observation System (GCOS) co-sponsored by WMO facilitates the improvement of global observation systems for climate. Congress recognized the fundamental importance of the GCOS for the Global Framework, praised the successful GCOS Cooperation Mechanism and encouraged the GCOS Secretariat to continue to improve the surface station systems, upper-air station networks and other observing systems in developing regions and Small Island Developing States.
Congress agreed to pursue the development of an architecture for climate monitoring from space under the WMO Space Programme. This action would bring to climate monitoring the same kind of end-to-end system that has been created for weather monitoring and forecasting over the last forty years.
Congress also urged increased attention to Space Weather events which occur as a result of activity on the Sun's surface and can then have an impact on the environment between the Sun and the Earth. These solar events can disrupt power supplies, air-traffic control, communication mechanisms and satellites. WMO is working with the International Space Environment Service (ISES) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to bring greater international coordination to respond to requirements with standardized warnings and products. Solar activity is expected to reach a new peak around the year 2013 after a very long period of a quiet sun.
The WMO Global Atmosphere Watch programme provides authoritative information about the state and behaviour of the atmosphere. It is pivotal to understanding the influence of human activity through, for instance, the global increase of greenhouse gases and effect of aerosols on weather and climate. It assesses stratospheric ozone depletion and related increase in ultraviolet radiation, long-range pollutant transport, and urban and regional air quality. Congress said the international coordination role of WMO in environmental issues is becoming more extensive and complex - and important. In addition to its longstanding atmospheric research, Congress urged WMO to intensify its work on forecasting air pollution in urban areas, including in megacities with populations of ten million or more. Megacities are often located along coasts or near deltas and face many challenges from environment, weather and water related hazards due to their geographical location and high population density.
The need for greater capacity developing activities in vulnerable nations is at the heart of the philosophy of the new Global Framework on Climate Services and it will be a priority in all WMO’s programmes in the next four years. Given that weather, water and climate know no geographical boundaries, failure to build capacity of NMHSs in developing countries has an impact all over the world.
Congress recommended that WMO should prepare a cross-cutting Capacity Development Strategy to coordinate and enhance WMO’s existing capacity building activities. It requested the Executive Council to take the lead in preparing this strategy and an implementation plan which takes into account the needs and guidance of Members and will provide further focus for WMO’s efforts in the coordination and cooperation of technical assistance among Members, regionalassociations, technical commissions, and the WMO Secretariat.
Inaddition to technical assistance, capacity development activities included assisting Members with advocacy to national, regional and global leadership, resource mobilization efforts, management and institutional change processes and education and training, in line with national priorities, policies and needs, Congress said.
It said that WMO should move toward a capacity development plan that has clearly articulated goals, timelines and resource requirements. These plans should be informed by Regional Operating Plans developed by regional bodies and approved by regional associations through their management teams.
Congress agreed that the successes achieved by the consortium of Members that assisted Haiti re-establish warning services after the 2010 earthquake should be analyzed as a case study for the Capacity Development Strategy.
NMHSs in most Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States do not yet have to the capacity for providing essential climate services and information for decision-makers and communities. Congress decided to enhance the WMO Programme for Least Developed Countries and it requested that a high profile programme of fast-track projects be established to build the necessary capacity of concerned countries,WMO has six Regional Associations and the Regional Offices play an increasing through role as a focal point for information on regional activities and for assisting Members develop their NMHSs technical programmes. Congress agreed that the Secretary-General should further optimize the internal capacity building structure with a strong participation of the Regional Offices.
Congress approved new Education and Training Standards for Meteorologists and Meteorological Technicians that provide greater clarity on the minimum education and training requirements for Members. These Standards are written in terms of learning outcomes providing Members with flexibility in how they are delivered whilst ensuring a uniform global minimum.
Aeronautical Meteorological Services
Congress decided to make the Aeronautical Meteorology Programme a ‘’high-priority programme that should be suitably resourced” to help its Members meet the increasing needs of the aviation sector and improve the delivery of meteorological services to promote the safety, regularity and efficiency of international air navigation. (link to press release)
The rapid growth in air traffic requires increased levels of aeronautical meteorological services. Given the strong linkage between flight delays and poor weather conditions in terms of low visibility, turbulence, icing and severe convection, aeronautical meteorology services are key for authorities who need to take decisions that minimize disruption to travel, whilst ensuring passenger safety. The programme is successfully supporting aviation to mitigate the impact of events such as volcanic eruptions, solar storms and extreme weather.
Congress agreed on a new competency-based system for aeronautical meteorological forecasters and observers. In response to a request from WMO’s Regional Associations, it was agreed that Members would be given assistance through training and cooperation programmes to meet Quality Management System targets set by the International Civil Aviation Authority. (press release 919)
Cross Cutting Activities
Polar Activities. The Polar regions, including the ‘Third Pole’ (Himalayan and Tibetan Plateau) are extremely important in terms of their global impacts on weather, water and climate. Congress made several major decisions to strengthen observations, research and services. It supported the need to establish an observational framework for Polar Regions, including an Antarctic Observing Network. It also agreed to embark on a multi-year endeavour to develop a Global Integrated Polar Prediction System, capable of providing information to meet user needs on timescales from hours to centuries.
Congress stressed the importance of the cryosphere (water in its frozen state and includes snow cover, sea ice, lake and river ice, glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets and permafrost) which spans all latitudes in approximately one hundred countries, in addition to the Antarctic continent. It provides some of the most useful indicators of climate change, yet is one of the most under-sampled domains of the Earth System. Noting the unparalleled demand for authoritative information on the state of the world’s snow and ice resources, Congress agreed to embark on the development of the Global Cryosphere Watch (GCW), in collaboration with international partners.
Building on the momentum of the International Polar Year 2007-2008 (IPY), it agreed to work with other international organizations in preparing a concept document on a potential International Polar Decade (IPD) initiative which would be aimed at delivering better, more reliable scientific information to inform risk-based decision and policy making activities in the Polar Regions.
Congress adopted the new initiatives of the World Weather Research Programme, including seasonal to sub-seasonal prediction and polar prediction research. Both these planned projects will foster closer linkages with climate, and severe weather forecast demonstration projects, through advancing the science of weather-related research. It welcomed the achievements of the WMO co-sponsored World Climate Research Programme in improving climate prediction and enhancing understanding of human’s interactions with climate. It looked forward to closer cooperation with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is co-sponsored by WMO.
Awards and Elections
Congress, WMO’s supreme body which meets every four years, elected Mr David Grimes (Canada) as President to succeed outgoing President Bedritskiy, who was awarded the title of President Emeritus. It elected Dr Antonio Divino Moura (Brazil) as First Vice-President, Prof. Mieczyslaw S. Ostojski (Poland) as Second Vice-President, and Mr Abdalah Mokssit (Morocco) as Third Vice President (press release 918). It re-appointed Mr Michel Jarraud as Secretary-General (press release 917).
It also elected the members of WMO Executive Council which will meet 6-8 June 2011 (link to news).
It approved a regular budget of 276,000,000 Swiss francs for the 2012-2015 financial period and voluntary resource estimates of 175,000,000 Swiss francs.
WMO presented its most prestigious award to Prof. Taroh Matsuno of Japan in a ceremony on 2June 2011. The IMO prize, granted annually, recognizes outstanding scientific research work in the field of meteorology. Prof. Matsuno is an eminent research scientist in atmospheric dynamics and a distinguished leader in climate research who has significantly contributed to the progress of studies on climate change. (link to news)
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