The World Meteorological Organization’s annual Executive Council meeting opened 18 June with a focus on providing better weather and climate services to protect a growing urban-based global population challenged by climate change, extreme weather events, pollution, pressure on water supplies and food insecurity.
“The year that has passed since our last session has been marked by a number of extreme weather and climate events: cold waves and major winter storms in North America; extremely high temperatures and heat waves from eastern Mongolia to eastern China as well as in Australia, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa; widespread and prolonged flooding in the UK and more recently extreme floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.
He told assembled delegates that there was increasing evidence of a direct link between climate change and extreme events like drought and heat waves.
“One of the strongest tropical cyclones on record, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), ravaged the Philippines, showing how devastating can be the combined effect of more intense storms and accelerating sea level rise,” said Mr Jarraud.
“All these events brought significant damages in terms of losses of life and property and this calls once more on the need to further improve early warning systems and strengthen meteorological and hydrological services around the world,” he said.
The opening of the Council session coincided with the release of data from the Tokyo Climate Center (one of WMO’s regional centres) showing that global temperatures in the month of May and the (northern hemisphere) spring were the highest on record.
Mr Jarraud warned that the relentless rise in emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases committed the world to a warmer future.
“Indeed, global emissions of greenhouse gases have been growing more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades, reaching unprecedented levels:. Last April, for the first time, monthly concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere topped the threshold of 400parts per million averaged over the northern hemisphere,” said Mr Jarraud.
Greater international cooperation and investment in weather and climate services is essential to build resilience, promote sustainable development and help humanity cope with the changing climate, said Mr Jarraud. He hailed progress in the implementation of the WMO-spearheaded Global Framework for Climate Services which aims to improve the supply and use of climate services, especially for food security, health outcomes, water management and disaster resilience.
The 37-member Executive Council meets annually to discuss progress in WMO priority programmes and service delivery. Its agenda this year includes:
- Disaster risk reduction
- Tropical cyclone and severe weather forecasts and warnings
- Public Weather Services
- Better seasonal to sub-seasonal predictions
- Polar predictions and the Global Cryosphere Watch
- Quality management in meteorological services for the aviation sector
- Improved and more integrated observation systems, including space and ocean-based ones
- The WMO Information System
- Capacity development
- Education and training
- Public weather services
- Atmospheric monitoring of greenhouse gases, air pollution, and sand and dust storms
- Research programmes and initiatives
“I take pride in our service-driven Organization which manifests great strength and a passion to serve humankind in adapting to climate variability and change, warn of high impact weather and water events with programmes that help to build community resilience,” said WMO President David Grimes.
Mr Grimes said the 10-day session would be guided by the needs to improve meteorological services and multi-hazard early warning systems for growing urban populations and megacities.
«More than half of global population lives in cities and the number is growing by 60 million per year,» he said. “Many cities do not benefit from responsible economic development, water resource management, secure energy supplies or food security,” said Mr Grimes.
There will also be discussions on aviation meteorology ahead of an international technical conference and Conjoint Meteorology Divisional meeting in July with the International Civil Aviation Authority. Mr Grimes said that meteorological services continue to face challenges to fully implement quality management systems.
The Executive Council will consider the implications of the trend towards increased global service delivery models for aeronautical meteorological services which are currently provided by national meteorological services.