The National Need
In many developing countries hydrometeorological services (provision of weather, climate and hydrological information) are inadequate to meet societal needs. This hydrometeorological "service gap" has arisen due to insufficient resourcing of the infrastructure required to provide these crucial services. The under-resourcing of developing country hydrometeorological infrastructure may be attributed to a variety of causes; civil unrest, natural and economic disasters, and even something as simple as a lack of understanding by government and community as to the important contribution hydrometeorological services can make to the national economy and to a citizen’s quality of life.
In the affected countries the service gap is widening as the number of people living in areas threatened by hydrometeorological hazards increases. For example, we see increased cultivation on river plains subject to flooding and rapid population increases in coastal zones subject to storm tides and other impacts associated with severe storms and tropical cyclones. In many instances these extreme events are exacerbated by climate change which brings with it sea level rise affecting coastal zones and drought and heat waves in low rainfall sub-tropical countries that have bourgeoning populations of rural poor.
The Investment Challenge
Increased investment is urgently needed to address this growing service delivery gap. While some donors and international financiers do target hydromet service modernization, investments in the sector have so far not been sufficient, and often do not recognize the public good responsibilities of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs).
Investments tend to be not well coordinated between donors working at a national level and too short in duration to achieve sustainable outcomes. Case studies show that donor-supported modernization of national hydro-meteorological services can follow a variety of pathways; at one extreme there have been integrated approaches by a single donor to upgrade all vital capabilities. At the other, much more frequent extreme, different donors have provided discrete systems that meet separate needed capabilities (for example automatic weather stations or satellite receiving systems and display, weather radars or message switching), with little inter-operability between the systems. In these latter cases system fragmentation and lack of planning has led to inefficient operations and wasted resources.
Moreover, short-term, project-level interventions often focus on provision of observing equipment while neglecting institutional and human capacity development and sustainability issues which are crucial to achieving long-term improvements in hydro-meteorological services. Sustained engagement and a holistic, service -oriented approach are needed to ensure that hydrometeorological modernization leads to long term improvements in the services provided as well as improved outcomes in areas linked or sensitive to weather, water and climate, e.g. effective early warning, decision-support products and services for risk management in hydrometeorologically sensitive sectors, information support for risk financing, etc.
The Regional and Global Requirement
Experience also shows that flooding rivers and extreme weather systems do not respect national borders. Meteorological and hydrological data and information generated at a national level are also valuable at regional and global levels for assisting vulnerable communities in neighboring countries, travelers and international commerce to respond to effectively to hazards. Noting the regional and even global value of hydro-meteorological data and services, it is crucial that donors operating at national levels work within agreed regional and global frameworks established by WMO.