50 Years Ago ...

WMO Bulletin Vol. VII, No. 4
October 1958

The picture on the cover

Since time immemorial farmers have realized the important role played by climate and water in the drama of their struggle to obtain the best possible yield from their land. They are now aided in their work by the meteorologist, who studies the climatic requirements of different crops, endeavours to express his weather forecasts in terms of farming operations and supplies the climatic information required by agricultural planners. This work can only be done satisfactorily by full collaboration at the national level between the agricultural and meteorological services, which is reflected in turn at the international level by the very close relationship between WMO and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.

The picture on the cover illustrates the investigations being made in the Federal Republic of Germany on the micrometeorology of vineyards. An electrical anemometer is being sued to obtain measurements of ventilation for studying the effects of new growing techniques on the incidence of plant disease.



The October 1958 issue of the Bulletin contained articles entitled “Agricultural meteorology”, “A world hydrological organization?”, “The role of WMO in hydrology”, “Heat balance of the surface of the Earth” (a long article by M.I. Budyko which addressed the climatology of the heat balance and some of the problems) and covered International Geophysical Year, activities of regional association and of technical commissions, and collaboration with other international organizations.

Agricultural meteorology

That weather has a major control over agriculture and crop production has been known ever since man evolved from the hunter into the farmer. The farmer knows that his crop production is a gamble on the rains and on other weather factors like temperature and wind ...

Agricultural meteorology deals with the various problems of crop growth and out-turn in relation to the environmental factors, i.e. the weather factors and their time sequence during the growing season. These same environmental factors also affect the many crop diseases and pests and thus bring about a further indirect control over plant growth and yield.

... In fact, the variability of crop yields due to weather is found to be of the same order as the variability induced by all the other controls, such as variety, manure and cultural treatments, put together ... just as botany, entomology and chemistry have fundamental contributions of a permanent kind to make to agriculture, so also has the science of meteorology.

In many countries that are primarily agricultural, the official organizations to look after agricultural research ad its applications to practical agriculture and the effect of weather on crops have originated from the incidence of recurring famines due to large-scale failure of the rains ... in the initial stages, the weather bureaux have confined attention to the organization of networks of weather telegraphing observatories for developing the synoptic weather maps required for predicting the large-scale weather changes from day to day. On the other hand, agricultural statistics of areas sown and yield per acre have been reputedly unreliable, based as they were on subjective visual estimates of revenue of cials whose main purpose was the assessment of land tax ... We now know that while macroclimate conditions crops, crops too within their own environment control the microclimate ... It seems clear that it is the microclimate that actually controls crop-growth as well as the incidence and intensity of pests and diseases ... and it is only of late that objective, statistically sound techniques of random sampling have been adopted for estimating crop acreages, crop growth and yields.

The importance of setting up suitable organizations for the systematic investigation of weather in relation to crops began to be realized early in this century and the International Meteorological Organization constituted a Commission of Agricultural Meteorology (CAgM) with the object of encouraging these studies in all countries.

After two world wars the nations have come to realize that food is indeed a major world problem. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), as well as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization ... are collaborating with CAgM in discussing problems of agricultural meteorology and cognate subjects. For the systematic collection of special climatological records side by side with observations of crop growth and yield, CAgM has prepared detailed technical regulations for use by all interested countries.

... Enabling plants to avoid risks due to drought and frosts by producing resistant varieties is the task of the plant breeder. For this purpose as well as for other detailed investigations on crop-weather relations it is likely that work with plants in control chambers, the values of the relevant environmental factors varying from chamber to chamber, is likely to be taken up in many countries. This may help to provide insight into phenomena occurring at random or without control in nature.

L.A. Ramdas

The role of WMO in hydrology: the viewpoint of a meteorologist

... The first concern of the directors of meteorological services will be that WMO continue to function properly in meteorology. What effect will the added task have on such pressing WMO projects as developing standards for observations up to the 10 mb level and for transmission of data for numerical forecasting? Will WMO still be able to offer the proper guidance in improved forecasting methods, expanded climatological studies and development of electronic instrumentation?

At present only a few countries have a uni ed national hydrometeorological service. For these countries, the unification of interest at the international level is clearly logical and bene cial. In most countries, however, hydrology is the responsibility of one (or several) agencies separate from the meteorological service. In federated States, it is not unusual to find that hydrological activities are left to the individual states. This division of responsibility at the national level gives rise to serious problems with regard to any proposal for international uni cation. Who shall represent his country in WMO—a meteorologist or a hydrologist? Will the proper functioning of WMO in either field be assured in the representation is diversified? Can WMO maintain its character as the international meteorological organization if hydrology is included in its programme? Will the essential homogeneity of the organization be lost by the introduction of a new discipline?

These questions and doubts are important and must certainly be answered to the satisfaction of the meteorologist before unification is possible or even desirable. The answers must be equally acceptable to hydrologists if a uni ed organization is to be successful. What then are the arguments for increased hydrological activity in WMO?

There is no doubt that international collaboration in hydrology is indispensable. The world is becoming steadily more conscious of its water problems. Water must be provided to grow more food, to meet the demands of industry and to supply human needs. The development of the underdeveloped countries cannot be accomplished without enormous increases in their water sue. At the same time, the pollution of streams, the damage and loss of life from oods, and waste of water either to the sea or by excessive evaporation must be diminished or eliminated entirely. In arid zones, particularly, new sources of underground water must be located, evaluated and intelligently exploited.

The proper development and use of water resources requires basic data, skilfully interpreted. Two key items in the water balance of an area— precipitation and evaporation—have long been the responsibility of the meteorological service in most countries. If a single international organization (other than WMO) is to be responsible for hydrology, then WMO must be prepared to give up its role in connexion with precipitation and evaporation. I am sure that no meteorologist would be prepared to do this, just as he would not surrender aviation meteorology to the International Civil Aviation Organization or agricultural meteorology to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Confronted with this alternative, the meteorologist finds a strong argument for inclusion of hydrology in WMO. Similarly, the hydrologist’s interest in many other phenomena of meteorology encourages him to accept the same conclusion. This similarity of interest also ends to dispute the argument that inclusion of hydrology in WMO will dilute its homogeneity. In fact, discussion at the Second Congress and in various technical commissions suggest that, in reality, meteorology in itself is far from homogeneous. In many ways the climatologist and agricultural meteorologist will feel closer to the hydrologist than the aviation forecaster. Certainly, the hydrologist engaged in river forecasting will have common ties with the weather forecaster.

Naturally the inclusion of new functions in WMO will retard growth of existing functions unless appropriate adjustments in budget and staff are provided. This means that if WMO accepts the responsibility for hydrology it must accept the added cost (estimated at 15 per cent of the present budget). It must be noted that this is certainly far less than the cost of an entirely new organization, and in view of the importance of hydrology to the world a remarkably small sum in total.

There seems to be no reason why the present procedural methods of WMO which have worked so well for meteorology should not serve hydrology equally well. The necessary technical commission(s) of hydrologists would have to be created and supported but the great similarity between the international problems of hydrology and meteorology would seem to assure the effectiveness of this approach.

The lack of unity at the national level creates a potentially more serious objection to international coordination than do the other arguments ... each country will have to designate its permanent representative as it sees fit but he must have the support and advice of a national committee representing both meteorological and hydrological interests. With good will, such an arrangement should be harmonious and effective. Indeed it may have, in the long run, great advantages to both meteorology and hydrology as a result of increased cooperation and understanding at the national and international levels.

... There are certainly strong arguments for bringing hydrology under one roof. Hydrology is, however, a broad science and inclusion of it in its entirety in WMO creates many problems. The wider field involves greater cost and more staff if a balanced programme is to be carried on from the start ... Whatever the final decision, meteorology should profi t from increased stature in the family of UN and from closer scientific coordination with scientists in a closely related field.

M. Gilead

News and notes

Presentation of the third IMO Prize

The third IMO Prize, awarded by the Executive Committee to Ernest Gold, former deputy-director of the British Meteorological Office, was presented on 30 June 1958 in London. André Viaut, President of WMO, presented the prize during a ceremony which took place in the historic assembly hall of the Royal Society at Burlington House, Piccadilly, under the chairmanship of Sir Graham Sutton, Director-General of the Meteorological Office. Eminent persons who honoured Mr Gold and his wife by their presence included Lord Hurcomb, President of the Meteorological Committee, Sir David Brunt, Sir Charles Normand, Sir George Simpson and G.M.B. Dobson.

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