WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud has highlighted the need to improve observation systems for climate change adaptation at a conference organized by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).
Mr Jarraud said the International Symposium "Benefiting from Earth Observation – Bridging the Data Gap for Adaptation to Climate Change in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region" in Kathmandu, Nepal, provided the region with a key opportunity to advance in sustainable development and international cooperation.
“Although some changes are unavoidable, it is not too late to prevent them from becoming an even more serious threat to our common future,” Mr Jarraud said in a video message to the opening session.
Known as the "water tower" of Asia, the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region exhibits the largest concentration of snow and glaciers outside the polar regions and it contributes the headwaters of the 10 largest Asian river basins.
In its Summary for Policymakers, the WMO co-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that glacier melt in the Himalayas is projected to increase flooding and rock avalanches from destabilized slopes, and to significantly affect freshwater resources within decades, Mr Jarraud recalled.
Difficulties in accessing some parts of the region mean that remote observations, in particular space-based observations, are vital in predicting and assessing natural hazards, such as the floods afflicting Pakistan. On-site observations are also imperative, highlighting the importance of strengthening national Meteorological and Hydrological Services, Mr. Jarraud said.
In 2002, WMO and ICIMOD subscribed a Memorandum of Understanding to increase cooperation in weather, climate and water, including environmental and disaster risk reduction, research and capacity building for National Meteorological and Hydrological Services.
For information about the symposium, see geoportal.icimod.org/symposium2010/