No. 919 - World Meteorological Congress Reinforces Aeronautical Meteorological Programme

No. 919 - World Meteorological Congress Reinforces Aeronautical Meteorological Programme



2 June 2011
Press Release Number:

World Meteorological Congress Reinforces Aeronautical Meteorological Programme

Geneva, 2 June 2011 (WMO) - The World Meteorological Organization plans to boost its aeronautical meteorological activities given their importance to safe, regular and efficient air navigation.

The World Meteorological Congress today decided to make the Aeronautical Meteorology Programme a ‘’high-priority programme that should be suitably resourced” to help its Members meet the increasing needs of the aviation sector.

“The recent eruptions of the Eyjafjallajökull and Grímsvötn volcanoes in Iceland served as a reminder of the importance of aeronautical meteorology in predicting and projecting the spread of the volcanic ash cloud, and providing authoritative information to civil aviation authorities to help inform their decisions,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

“The rapid growth in air traffic requires increased levels of aeronautical meteorological services. Given the strong linkage between flight delays and poor weather conditions in terms of low visibility, turbulence, icing and severe convection, aeronautical meteorology services are key for authorities who need to take decisions that minimize disruption to travel, whilst ensuring passenger safety,” said Mr Jarraud.

Aviation meteorology is the main source of income, through cost recovery, for many National Meteorological Services, particularly in developing countries. There is constant pressure within the aviation sector for increased efficiency in the provision of external services including meteorology.

WMO seeks to strengthen the capacity of its Members, particularly its National Meteorological Services, to provide aviation stakeholders with operational meteorological information required for safe, regular and efficient air navigation.  It maintains close liaison with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The aviation sector also collects meteorological data used by NMHSs in weather forecasting.

WMO’s Aeronautical Meteorology Programme promotes technology transfer, education and training, and capacity building to help National Meteorological Services, particularly in developing countries, meet the needs of international and national civil air navigation authorities.

Quality Management System

Congress agreed on a new competency-based system for aeronautical meteorological forecasters and observers. This is considered more flexible and pragmatic than a purely qualifications-based system and should give confidence to users that the personnel have been assessed on the job with documented results.

The new competency-based system will be enshrined in WMO’s technical regulations. There is a target of 1 December 2013 for countries to achieve the competence standards for personnel in line with ICAO’s Quality Management System.

The WMO Secretariat has been providing expertise, training and resources to regionally based Quality Management System initiatives. To reinforce these efforts, Congress requested Members with a well-developed Quality Management System to make expertise and resources available on a “twinning basis” to countries in need. It said this was the most realistic approach to a globally successful implementation of QMS by the target date.

Advisory Messages

There is a well-established system of advisories for tropical cyclones and volcanic ash.

The six Tropical Cyclone Warning Centres have regional responsibility to provide advisories and bulletins on all tropical cyclones, hurricanes or typhoons everywhere in the world.

There are nine Volcanic Ash Advisory Centres (VAAC) across the world, established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in close cooperation with WMO and the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) They are operated by WMO Members and provide meteorological information in support of the International Airways Volcano Watch system.

The VAAC responsible for the area where the eruption has occurred (called the lead VAAC) issues a Volcanic Ash advisory based on observations, meteorological data and forecasts of transport and dispersion. In the case of the recent eruption of the Grímsvötn volcano in Iceland, the lead VAAC was based in the United Kingdom and was responsible for monitoring and reporting the spread of ash over the UK, Iceland and the north-eastern part of the North Atlantic Ocean.

ICAO, supported by WMO is now seeking to expand this regional advisory system to include aviation weather warnings known as SIGMET (Significant Meteorological Information) which are issued to warn aircraft of hazards such as turbulence and icing. There is a pilot project on the provision of SIGMET advisory messages involving three selected Members; China, for Eastern and South-Eastern Asia; France for Western and Central Africa, and South Africa for Southern Africa. Congress urged Members to use the trial products of pilot project to demonstrate their ability to provide reliable, accurate and timely warnings of hazardous weather conditions to aviation.

Other Priorities

New Air Traffic Management concepts for performance-based air navigation require increased levels of service from aeronautical meteorological providers. Congress agreed that the development, harmonization and regulation of new services for Air Traffic Management would be a high-priority issue. This is especially because national and transnational Air Traffic management authorities in several regions are implementing new airspace structures and consequently request the provision of aeronautical meteorological services in line with the new airspace structures.

Other areas of work will include new Network-centric weather information exchange models; up-linking ground- and space-based observations as well as products with nowcast (immediate) information to aircraft and Air Traffic Management units, and Space weather. In close cooperation with the WMO Space Programme, the Aeronautical Meteorology Programme is developing so-called “space weather services” to help aviation overcome the expected problems and disruptions of communications that could be expected when the solar activity reaches a new peak around the year 2013 after a very long period of a quiet sun.

In view of the expected impacts of climate change – notably an increase in extreme weather events - on the transport and aviation industry, another future priority will be to provide services to help aviation operations adapt.


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Carine Richard-Van Maele, Chief, Communications and Public Affairs, Tel: +41 (0)22 730 8315;


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