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Geneva, 3 July 2014 (WMO) - The World Meteorological Organization (WMO)Executive Council has agreed on measures to strengthen the delivery and quality of weather, water and climate services vital to public safety, economic efficiency and environmental sustainability.
Discussions during the 10-day meeting (18-27 June) also focused on how to build the capacity of, and recognition for, National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) and secure appropriate funding necessary to the growing challenges posed by climate change, extreme weather events, pollution and urbanisation.
“To meet the evolving needs of society, it is essential that governments invest in their National Meteorological and Hydrological Services so they can meet their responsibilities to provide weather information and related services, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.
“Their expert advice and early warnings will be in particularly high demand in the coming months because WMO expects that an El Niño Southern Oscillation event will continue to develop in the second half of the year and this typically leads to extreme weather events in different parts of the world,” said Mr Jarraud.
“Accurate, user-friendly, localized forecasts will be vital to manage the impacts of El Niño on agricultural production, food security, health and water management,” said Mr Jarraud. “These forecasts are worth hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars to the global economy and help save countless lives.”
Prior to the meeting, the northern hemisphere stations in WMO’s Global Atmosphere Watch network reported that carbon dioxide concentrations averaged over the northern hemisphere exceeded the symbolic 400 parts per million mark in May. Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, trapping heat and causing the planet to warm further, impacting on all aspects of life on earth. “This once again underscores the need for urgent action to reign in the rise in emissions of greenhouse gases,” said Mr Jarraud.
A solid network of surface, atmospheric and ocean observations is fundamental to the ability to predict and monitor climate phenomena like ENSO events. The Executive Council voiced concern about the deterioration of the some of the ocean observing systems, for example the system of buoys in the Pacific. It recommended that broader partnerships should be formed to sustain and improve the observing systems.
It discussed how to accelerate progress towards the WMO Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS) which is needed to consolidate progress in meteorological research, numerical modelling, observing capabilities, and computer and communication technologies. Described as “Our Planet’s Future Hub for Weather, Climate and Water Observations,” WIGOS is due to become operational by 2016. Once implemented, it will contribute to a better understanding of our environment and will benefit society.
Progress in implementing the Global Framework for Climate Services was praised. This is a U.N. system-wide initiative with many other partners, spearheaded by WMO, to provide climate services like seasonal outlooks to help countries and communities cope with climate variability and change, especially for the 70 countries which currently have not even the very basic human, technical capacities.
Milestones include developing and delivering services for agriculture and food security, water, health and disaster risk reduction in the first two years of implementation; expanding climate services to other priority areas in six years; and ensuring access to improved climate services throughout the world and across all climate-sensitive sectors after 10 years.
One of the top priorities for National Meteorological Services (NMSs) in the coming years will be to increase their quality management and excellence in service delivery to meet the rapidly growing demands of the aviation sector and adapt to the trend towards increased global and regional aeronautical meteorological service delivery models. .
Many air accidents are weather-related and the Executive Council stressed that air safety should not be compromised in the foreseen continued growth of air traffic. Air navigation will be increasingly dependent on satellite technology, which makes it vulnerable to so-called Space weather, which encompasses the conditions and processes occurring in space, including on the sun, and which can interfere with communications equipment on trans-polar routes. The aeronautical, meteorological community will respond to this new emerging hazard by launching a new Space Weather service.
An international technical conference and Conjoint Meteorology Divisional meeting in July with the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) will discuss how best to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead. ICAO has launched a new edition of its Global Air Navigation Plan, which addresses the challenges of air transport growth in the next two decades with related air space capacity and environmental concerns. Aeronautical meteorological services are seen as a key enabler of the global air traffic management improvements. Executive Council acknowledged the many challenges for the national meteorological services and stressed the importance that the forthcoming ICAO/WMO Conjoint meeting agree on clear recommendations.
Disaster Risk Reduction
Natural hazards of hydro-meteorological origin often lead to disasters, which can wipe out a significant fraction of a developing nation’s GDP and still result in large losses of lives despite major improvements over last decades.
WMO Members, through their NMHSs and other relevant stakeholders are working together to implement multi-hazard impact-based early warning systems to support prepardness, response and resilience of nations and communities; and improve forecasts and understanding of high-impact meteorological, hydrological and environmental events. The aim is to further reduce the number of fatalities from weather, climate and water related disasters and the economic losses.
Lessons learnt from Typhoon Haiyan last year showed the need for such impact-based forecasts and, above all, improved communication of the risk of storm surge hazards. WMO is now working on a number of initiatives to better formulate warnings of these hazards and to improve forecasts of coastal inundation and flash floods, and of severe weather in general.
Sound meteorological science is needed to support decision-making at the third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction planned for March 2015 in Sendai (Japan), which will consider the Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
The ability to provide high quality weather, climate and water services depends upon availability of modern infrastructure and adequate well trained human resources. The Executive Council stressed the need for more investment in under-resourced NMHSs.
“This issue must be dealt with if the global community is to attain sustainable development, disaster risk reduction, safety of transport in air, on land and water, food security, sustainable management of water resources, manage climate risks and adapt to climate change by building resilient societies,” said the Executive Council.
The Executive Council agreed that WMO should be proactive in adressing the growing needs for specialized weather, climate, water and related environmental services of the rapidly growing urban population, best addressed through an cross-cutting research project that also places particular emphasis on the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS).
In realizing that high impact weather continue to have large impacts on sustainable development, the Executive Council decided to establish a new research project called HIWeather that will focus on urban floods, wildfires, localized extreme winds, disruptive winter weather, urban heat / air quality issues.It also endorsed research activities in sub-seasonal to seasonal and polar prediction as priority areas of collaboration between the World Weather and World Climate Research Programmes.
“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.
The 37-member Executive Council meets annually to discuss progress in WMO priority programmes. This year’s decisions will inform discussions at the quadrennial World Meteorological Congress in May-June 2015.
Weather, Climate and Water
For more information, please contact Clare Nullis at +41 22 730 8478 (fixed), +41 79 709 1397 or cnullis(at)wmo.int