WMO celebrated its 70th Anniversary in 2020. Activities to mark the Organization milestone anniversary start on 23 March – the date the WMO Convention came into force in 1950. One year later, WMO became a United Nations specialized agency and, today, WMO Member States and Territories number 193. But the history of international cooperation in meteorology dates back much earlier than 1950. The International Meteorological Organization (IMO), the predecessor of WMO, originates from the 1873 Vienna International Meteorological Congress decision to draft the rules and statutes of an international meteorological organization to facilitate the exchange of weather information across national borders. The 150th anniversary of that event will be celebrated with due pomp in 2023.
Many of the activities and events to mark the WMO 70th anniversary were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A social media compaign based on the WMO Chronology of Weather Science (online museum) ran on social media, inviting followers to fly through the history of weather research on the traces of the people and institutions that have supported the progress of Earth System Science. The experts will accompany you from the beginnings of weather research in the early 20th Century to the advent of the first electronic computers and satellites then onward to the super computers that have revolutionized numerical weather prediction.
In addition, a series of special 70th anniversary publications will be produced in 2020 with inputs from leading scientists and experts around the globe. These publications are designed to be both retrospective and forward-looking. They will reflect on both the important historic milestones of the Organization, including its contributions to meteorology around the world, as well as anticipated transformations and innovations as we enter a new decade and beyond.
In Origin, Impact and Aftermath of WMO Resolution 40, the first in the series released in January, former WMO President (1995–2003) John W. Zillman shares his rich memories of that crucial period of WMO history. Interestingly, the Eighteenth Session of the World Meteorological Congress in June 2019, established a task to review WMO data policies and practices, including those of Resolution 40, and called for WMO to convene a global Data Conference in 2020. In view of these developments, the historical review of the WMO data policies is timely and useful.
The second publication in the series, The Establishment of the Joint WMO/IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology, was released in June to mark World Oceans Day. The publication also marks the 60th anniversary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) established in 1960 as a component body of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It presents the history, including the background, driving forces, key elements and players, of the establishment of the Joint WMO/IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology – otherwise known as (JCOMM). It is based on Peter Dexter’s 30 years or so of personal involvement, perspective and recollections, yet provides an account that is as accurate as possible with historical events.
The narrative begins with a broad-brush review of the general historical context for marine meteorology and oceanography, presenting key historical events paved the way for the development of JCOMM. These include the Brussels Maritime Conference of 1853, the formation of the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), the development of radiotelegraphy, and the establishment by IMO of the Commission for Maritime Meteorology (CMM). All of which are also indicative of the strong links between institutional meteorology and the maritime community.
However, the real back story to JCOMM begins with the establishment in 1960 of IOC. WMO took an immediate notice of this new entity and moved quickly to affirm its own claim to ocean affairs beyond traditional marine meteorology. This ushered in a long period of sometimes intense competition, but also close collaboration, between WMO and IOC.
In this vivid account, Peter Dexter introduces the players and reproduces the atmosphere at the time, breathing life into a little-known piece of WMO history over its first 70 years. We encourage readers to delve into his account – to quote Theodore Roosevelt, “The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.”
Building on the success of its first seventy years, WMO and its partners in all sectors will continue to work together to secure a better future for mankind and our planet.