FAQs - Natural Hazards & Disasters

1. What role does WMO play in the event of a natural disaster?

WMO works through the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services to ensure that, among other things, effective 24-hour operational early warning systems for weather-, climate- and water-related hazards are made available in a timely manner and with longer lead times across political boundaries to all affected populations.

Through its international, scientific and technical programmes and its network of National Meteorological Services, Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres and World Meteorological Centres (WMCs), WMO coordinates the global operational infrastructure for observing, detecting, modelling, forecasting and developing and issuing early warnings for a wide range of weather-, climate- and water- related hazards such as tornadoes, severe storms, tropical cyclones, storm surges, floods, heat waves, cold spells, droughts, locust swarms and forest fires. 

The WMO global network is highly effective, for example, at issuing tropical cyclone (hurricanes and typhoons) early warnings in the Atlantic and Pacific regions, reducing the risks of loss of lives and property. WMO has six Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres, operated by National Meteorological Services, devoted to tropical cyclones, which provide all countries with access to technical support, analysis and forecasts.

2. How does WMO disseminate data relating to natural hazards to the communities concerned?

Atmospheric and oceanic data are collected via in situ and space-based instruments by countries and transmitted through the WMO Global Telecommunication System (GTS) to WMO Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres, where round-the-clock forecasts and tropical cyclone advisories are developed. Advisories are then transmitted over the GTS, facsimile and Internet at intervals of three to six hours to the National Meteorological Services of countries at risk.

Forecasters use these advisories to produce national tropical cyclone warnings, which are dispatched immediately to newspapers, radio and television stations, emergency services and other users. Responsibility for issuing warnings rests with the National Meteorological Services of the country concerned. Many lives have been spared through timely measures that decision-makers and disaster preparedness entities have taken in response to this information. 

Beyond these natural hazards, WMO Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres also support countries and international organizations in responding to large-scale transboundary environmental emergencies caused by major nuclear and chemical accidents, volcanic eruptions and wildfires. WMO is committed to the extension of (in an optimum and cost-effective manner, in collaboration with relevant national, regional and international organizations) its early warning competency and mechanisms to address hazards other than those of hydro-meteorological origin, such as tsunamis.

3. How can WMO help developing nations better prepare for extreme weather events?

WMO and its Members provide assistance to reduce risks related to weather events. This assistance includes providing meteorological equipment, training for meteorologists, hydrologists and climate forecasters, education on public outreach, and technical assistance on forecasts and warnings as well as funding and workshops. The Organization also works closely with other agencies at international and regional levels to promote the concept of disaster preparedness and prevention. WMO also contributes infrastructure and technical expertise towards the development of multi-hazard early warning systems, including non-weather related hazards such as end-to-end tsunami early warning systems in the Indian Ocean and other regions at risk.

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