60 Years and Beyond

By any standards, the science of weather and climate has made outstanding progress.

By the time WMO was created in the mid-20th century, scientists had just generated the first computer-based forecasts. In 2010, weather forecasts and climate predictions continue to protect millions of lives every day.

From tracking ash from the Icelandic volcanic eruption, to restoring forecasting services after the tragic Haitian earthquake, providing warnings for floods in Pakistan, research on the ozone hole, the state of the world’s climate and more – WMO, national weather services, and a global network of meteorologists are on the front lines daily, with essential information for decision-makers.

This revolution in forecasting is backed by rapid advances in technology, meteorological theory and applications that affect our daily lives. Today, a forecast for ten days ahead is as accurate as the five-day forecast of 1980. Meteorological data is regularly used to predict weather conditions at sea, to chart the path of forest fire smoke or volcanic ash, to assess road ice conditions, to advise on crop viability and much more.

The forecasting revolution is also backed by a track record of international collaboration. Many projects are in development to harmonize, share and communicate information, using the power of high-speed computers, the Internet and innovative dissemination techniques.

This story of scientific progress, cooperation and climate-related advocacy is recounted in our second WMO Bulletin 60th anniversary edition.

Sixty years… and beyond

From Hippocrates to the climate challenges ahead, former Intergovern­mental Panel on Climate Change official Osvaldo Canziani sketches a history of meteorology. This is complemented by a chronicle of the revolution in forecasting by Peter Lynch of the University College Dublin.

Researchers from the US, the UK and Japan who tracked Typhoon Lupit in 2009 give an example of the forecasting revolution, sharing the experience of the power of ensemble forecasting for cyclones.

Eugenia Kalnay, winner of the 2009 International Meteorological Organization prize, provides insight on future trends – in “nowcasting” and seasonal forecasts – and tackles broader societal issues like gender and demographics along the way.

Encouraging the meteorological community to share experiences has been a success story. This issue captures what training and capacity building has meant for six meteorologists around the world who were granted WMO fellowships over the years.

Such cooperation, using state-of-the-art prediction, is essential to address high-profile issues such as disaster risk reduction and food security.

In Haiti, people are more vulnerable than ever after the January earthquake. This issue recounts how WMO and national weather services worked with Haitians to restore weather services before the hurricane season, and continue to enable Haitians to develop a range of weather and climate services.

Agricultural meteorologists are part of teams everywhere – from global to local levels – addressing food security issues. Trends in the field over the last 60 years, and an outlook for the future is shared by Jim Salinger, who recently headed the WMO Commission for Agricultural Meteorology.

Getting such valuable information to the right users, in the right way, is a thread that runs through many of these articles.

The WMO Bulletin team is listening, and adapting its own approach to meet changing needs. We hope readers enjoy this issue and find it useful, and welcome suggestions for future editions.

Global Framework for Climate Services

The next important chapter in service to communities for WMO and partners is the Global Framework for Climate Services. It captures the progress and aspirations of the world meteorological community, and responds to user needs, with a road map for the years ahead. More on this topic will be featured in our next issue.

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