The second session of the Council of Arab Ministers for Meteorology and Climate Affairs took place on 26 April, with a focus on boosting the effectiveness and capacity of meteorological services. Discussions included aeronautical meteorological services, weather and climate risk management, training and capacity building, the fledgling Arab Climate Outlook Forum, and sand and dust storm warning services.
The meeting, chaired by Saudi Arabia and held at the headquarters of the Arab League in Cairo, Egypt, agreed to press ahead with developing an Arab Strategy for Meteorology and draw up an implementation plan.
The Arab Council of Ministers for Meteorology expressed appreciation to WMO for strong partnership and support provided to Arab countries and looking forward to enhancing his partnership.
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas told delegates that WMO would support greater regional coordination and efforts to become more resilient to weather and environmental extremes and to long-term climate change.
Mr Taalas met with Egypt’s Minister of Civil Aviation, Sherif Fathy, in the presence of Dr. Ahmed Abdel-Aal, Chairman of the Egyptian Meteorological Authority and the current Chairman of the Arab Permanent Committee for Meteorology, to discuss ways of enhancing activities.
As the meeting took place, parts of the region were impacted by heavy precipitation and flash floods due to an Active Red Sea Trough, compounded by a severe sand and dust storm.
Mr Taalas said this underlined the need for strong meteorological services.
“Climate change brings new challenges and impacts, including increased frequency and intensity of some natural hazards,” said Mr Taalas.
He cited some examples from 2017.
- Precipitation: Dry conditions with rainfall below the 10th percentile were most widespread around the Mediterranean, extending east as far as Iran.
- Drought: Many parts of the Mediterranean region experienced significant drought in 2017. The eastern Mediterranean was also badly affected by drought. Autumn was also very dry in Morocco.
- The drought that affected significant parts of east Africa during 2016 continued into 2017. In the period March to May, rainy season, seasonal rainfall was at least 20% below average over most of Somalia, causing massive internal displacement in the context of drought and food insecurity.
- Heatwaves: Extreme heat affected south-west Asia at the end of May 2017. Sites in Iraq, Oman and the United Arab Emirates exceeded 50 °C. Morocco was also affected.
- Cold periods: The cold also extended to parts of northern Africa with snowfalls in some elevated parts of the Algerian Sahara.
WMO was very pleased to collaborate with the Permanent Committee on Meteorology and its subcommittees for many years to raise the attention on the need to address cooperatively the weather and climate extremes that are increasingly affecting the region, said Mr Taalas.
He thanked Arab countries for their active support in WMO constituent bodies and structures.
WMO Regional Training Centres for meteorology are offered by Algeria, Egypt, Iraq and Qatar. Qatar is also hosting the Gulf Marine Centre, while Oman provides a WMO Training Centre on Satellite Meteorology. Global Information Service Centres have been established by Morocco and Saudi Arabia.
A Regional Climate Centre Network for North Africa was designated last year, and Regional Climate Centre in Saudi Arabia is at the proposed stage and an Arab Climate Outlook Forum was established in 2017.