A new SunSmart Global Ultraviolet Radiation App for mobile phones has been developed by leading health, radiation and weather organizations, with the support of WMO. It provides geo-located 5-day UV and weather forecasts and sun protection times along with tailored notifications. The sun’s UV rays can impact vitamin D production, cause DNA damage, skin cancers and certain eye diseases, such as cataracts.
The App has been launched ahead of the southern hemisphere summer and on the eve of a meeting of parties to the Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol on Substances which Deplete the Ozone Layer. It is available free of charge at both the Apple App Store and on Google Play for Android versions.
The ozone layer is on track to recovery, but the current levels of ozone depleting substances in the atmosphere still meant that the ozone hole will continue to reappear annually over the Antarctic and also the Arctic. If ozone-depleted air is transported to the middle latitudes, populated regions are exposed to increased level of harmful UV solar radiation.
WMO monitors the state of the ozone layer through its Global Atmosphere Watch programme. And it is committed to advancing integrated health services as part of its work with the World Health Organization to translate science into services for society.
As part of the implementation of this integrated health services plan, WMO has supported the “SunSmart Global UV” App, which was developed by world leading health, radiation and weather organizations and is now available globally in Google and Apple App stores.
« What makes this App unique is that it provides behavioral prompts to reduce the risks associated with UV exposure based on current UV levels in any location,” says WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.
“It can also be adapted with the support of country-level weather bureaus to accept data from local UV measuring stations according to the current user location resulting in more accurate current UV Index readings. In an easy to understand language it provides clear guidance as to when sun protection is required and when it is not and how to protect yourself, » he said.
« We encourage the users in your country to utilize the application to ensure better health protection,” said Prof. Taalas in a circular letter to WMO Members.
The application allows inclusion of the national and local data streams in it and adaptation to other languages. It is available in the WMO’s official languages.
The App is based on the UV Index (UVI), which describes the level of solar UV radiation at the Earth's surface.
The UV Index was developed jointly by the Global Atmosphere Watch Programme (GAW) of WMO, the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection (Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz, BfS) to inform and alert the general public of the potential health risk associated with high UV solar radiation levels.
It seeks to bring worldwide consistency to UV reporting and public health messaging. The UV Index is reported on a scale of 1 (or “Low”) to 11 and higher (or “Extreme”) and the higher the index value is, the greater is the potential for damage to the skin and eye, and the less time it takes for harm to occur. The Maximum UV Index is at the solar noon when the sun is highest in the sky. Adapting outdoor activities and using sun protection are recommended staring at UV Index 3. UV damage is accumulative and even at low levels UV can be harmful when exposed for long periods.
The success of the UV index depends on how well such information is communicated to the public. The SunSmart Global UV App will therefore be an invaluable public health tool. It was developed in Australia where a similar App demonstrated improved UV protection public awareness.
The SunSmart Global UV (SSGUV) App has been developed by Cancer Council Victoria (CCV) in Australia in conjunction with project partners, Deakin University, the Australian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), ARC Research Hub for Digital Enhanced Living and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The UV Index forecast is produced by the European Commission Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) which is managed by the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and the weather forecast is provided by the Hong Kong Observatory, a WMO accredited centennial observing station.