The WMO Secretary-General and his team, as well as 33 directors and Permanent Representatives of hydrometeorological services, attended the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Some 130 delegates from 60 NMHSs also participated as part of their national delegations. COP 18 was held in Doha, Qatar, from 26 November to 7 December 2012.
The WMO Deputy Secretary-General, Jerry Lengoasa, addressed the opening plenary of the 37th session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) on the outcome of the extraordinary session of the WMO Congress concerning the implementation of the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS), its finance and governance mechanism. COP 18 noted the outcome of the extraordinary session and invited WMO to provide, at SBSTA 39, information on the outcome of the first session of the Intergovernmental Board on Climate Services, to be held in July 2013.
COP 18 recognized the relevance of the GFCS to its decision on “Approaches to address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change to enhance adaptive capacity”. It further recognized: (i) the need to strengthen international cooperation and expertise in order to understand and reduce loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including impacts related to extreme weather events and slow onset events; (ii) the importance of the systematic observation of climate change impacts; and (iii) the need to enhance access to hydrological and other data needed to assess and manage climate-related risks.
COP 18 adopted the eight-year Doha work programme on the Convention Article 6, which commits governments to promote and facilitate education, public awareness and training in the field of climate change of the Convention. The COP decision recognizes WMO and five other UN bodies as members of the United Nations Alliance on Climate Change Education, Training and Public Awareness. WMO brings to the Alliance its invaluable networks of experts and of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NHMSs) as well as a number of relevant programmes on education and training, and scientific capacity building.
“Climate services for sustainable climate-resilient development”, a side event organized by WMO under UN Delivering as One, discussed how the GFCS can support national and regional efforts to adapt to the impacts of climate variability and climate change on public health, disaster risk, water resources, food security and other sectors. The panelists represented the Government of Norway, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO/IOC), the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
WMO launched its reports on atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases in 2011 and on the climate trends and events experienced so far in 2012 at COP 18. These reports received a great deal of press coverage and were widely cited during the conference as providing clear evidence of the need for action on climate change.
The Observing system Research and Predictability EXperiment (THORPEX) is a 10-year international research and development programme organized by WMO to accelerate improvements in the accuracy of 1-day to 2-week forecasts of high-impact weather. The TIGGE (THORPEX Interactive Grand Global Ensemble) portal has been providing ten sets of quasi-operational global ensemble forecast data with a 2-day delay since October 2006. The use of TIGGE is an effective way to respond to extreme weather events, such as heat waves, floods, heavy rainfalls, hurricanes and atmospheric blocking. Extreme weather events, which may cause loss of lives and catastrophic damages, are expected to occur more frequently along with global warming. Thus, accurate predictions of extreme weather events benefit society, the economy and the environment.
The Global Interactive Forecast System-TIGGE Working Group is developing web-based, user-oriented products for tropical cyclone and heavy precipitation. One example is the quasi-operational prototype of ensemble-based early-warning products for extreme weather events now available online.
These early-warning products are based on operational medium-range ensemble forecasts from four of the leading global Numerical Weather Prediction centres: European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Japan Meteorological Agency, the Met Office in the United Kingdom and National Centers for Environmental Prediction in the United States of America. The forecast probability of the occurrence of an extreme weather event such as heavy rainfall, strong wind, and extreme high/low temperatures, is based on each model’s climatological probabilistic density function. The multi-centre grand ensemble provides a summarized pattern of occurrence probabilities by the single-centre ensembles.
Several recent weather extremes have been used as case studies to demonstrate the forecast skills of the new products, including Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the Russian heat wave in 2010 and the Pakistan Flood in 2010. A construction of multi-centre grand ensemble can improve probabilistic forecast reliability for extreme events, providing lead times of up to +15 days, especially for strong surface wind speed. The multi-centre grand ensemble can provide more reliable forecasts than singe-centre ensembles, although the grand ensemble is still overconfident, especially above lead times of +9 days. The grand ensemble approach offers a better way to estimate in advance the likelihood of occurrence of an extreme weather event.
Such early-warning products would be useful tools to reliably detect extreme weather events and to avoid catastrophic damages in advance, especially for developing countries.
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Initiatives that have grappled with the complexities of communicating and applying climate prediction information in Africa and South Asia have tended to be pilot-scale and project-based; they have, however, demonstrated good practices and provided valuable insights into how to scale up those efforts. Several have used innovative approaches to provide effective climate information and advisory services to inform farmer decision-making in order to improve the management of climate-related agricultural risks and to help farmers adapt to the uncertainties of climate change. A few national agrometeorological advisory services have even reached a significant proportion of the farming populations on a sustained basis. “Scaling Up Climate Services for Farmers in Africa and South Asia”, a workshop held in Senegal, from 10 to 12 December 2012, to foster South-South learning and collaboration between sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, discussed the insights to be gained from such initiatives.
The main objectives were to learn from and build on examples of good practice in farmer-focused climate information and advisory services and to share elements of good practice between Africa and South Asia. Other objectives included the development of project proposals to accelerate intra-and inter-regional cooperation on climate information and advisory services and the publication of a handbook of good practice for the production, communication and evaluation of climate information and advisory services for farmers.
In 2012, India announced plans to scale up climate services to 10 million farmers and Mali has provided innovative services to farmers since 1982. After two presentations on the Mali and India projects, there were thematic and regional working group sessions where other pilot projects were presented and discussed. The 110 workshop participants – representing 24 countries – then organized themselves into groups to develop some 15 “big ideas” or very preliminary project proposals that aimed to scale-up existing projects or explore new topics.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), a co-sponsor of the workshop, made an offer to provide limited grants to further the “big ideas” into concrete project proposals that could be sent for funding to donors with the assistance of the other co-sponsors – the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS is a CGIAR programme), the Climate Services Partnership (CSP) and WMO – or other organizations.
CCAFS and its partners are in the process of conducting in-depth studies of agrometeorlogical advisory services in India and Mali. The CCAFS studies will look for evidence of use and benefit at the village level and for insight about factors that have contributed to their uptake, impact and sustainability.
Extreme weather and climate events, such as the extreme heat wave in Russia in the summer of 2010, the exceptionally cold December in the United Kingdom later that year, or the devastating floods in Queensland, Australia, early in 2011, often cause major economic and human losses. Scientists are faced with the challenge of communicating scientifically robust information, quantifying their links to human-induced climate change, and evaluating the prospects for early warning of such events in a changing climate.
The demand for information is often at its greatest in an event’s aftermath. Decision-makers wish to know whether such major events could have been anticipated and whether they are likely to become more or less frequent in the future. Some potentially damaging weather events will occur less frequently as a result of human influence on climate. Therefore, a comprehensive inventory of the net cost of climate change presents substantial challenges, including the difficulty of quantifying the hypothetical cost of weather events that are prevented from occurring as a result of human adaptation.
However, reliable assessments of current extreme event probabilities and how those are changing in time – key information for informing any adaptation strategy – are often lacking or incomplete. Furthermore, mistakenly attributing an increased risk of an extreme event to climate change could, if natural variability is playing the major role, lead to poor adaptation decisions; for example, through allocation of expensive resources toward preparing for a greater frequency of such events when they are set to become less likely.
A paper by Peter A. Stott and co-authors entitled Attribution of Weather and Climate-Related Extreme Events and published in the WCRP monograph, Climate Science for Serving Society: Research, Modelling and Prediction Priorities (Stott et al, 2013) proposes a way forward. It advocates that what is required is the development of carefully calibrated physically-based assessments of the extent to which the risk of observed weather and climate-related events can be attributed to anthropogenic and natural factors. In the last year important progress has been made towards the development of such attribution assessments putting recent extreme weather and climate events into the context of climate variability and change with the launch of a new annual report in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The first report (Peterson et al, 2012) looked at six events of 2011, including the Texas heatwave of that year. As scientific capability develops, it is expected that future reports will be more comprehensive, and indeed many more contributions are expected for the second report looking at events of 2012. Underpinning such reports will be the development of modeling systems and attribution methodologies. A new system for attribution of weather and climate extreme events has been developed based on the atmospheric component of the latest Hadley Centre model which is described in a recent paper published in the Journal of Climate (Christidis et al, 2012). A key aspect of this endeavor is the development of methodologies for assessing the reliability of attribution assessments.
In 2012, Tuvalu became the 190th and South Sudan the 191st Members of WMO on 22 September and on 14 November respectively.
Tuvalu is a low-lying small island developing state in the Pacific that is vulnerable to climate variability and change. South Sudan is a landlocked African nation that has a fragile natural environment. It is vulnerable to extremes such as drought and flooding, exacerbated by desertification.
Photo credit: Andrea van der Elst
The WMO Fellowship Programme is designed to enable fellowship holders to derive from their training the knowledge and professional competence that will increase their ability to make essential contributions to enhancing the capabilities of the NMHS and enable them to participate more actively in the economic and social development of their countries. For over 50 years, young meteorologists, climatologists and hydrologists from around the world have been able to benefit from this Programme, which has strengthened the links between WMO Members as each has benefited and learned from the other.
The experience below, according to Mr Justinas Kilpys, offers a glimpse into the opportunity that those who choose – and are chosen – for the career-building experience of a WMO fellowship can look forward to.
WMO fellowship at Swiss GCOS Office
“Global climate observation is improving and evolving continuously, and satellite observation data, in particular, are becoming more important. The Lithuanian Hydrometeorological Service (LHMS) Climatology Division, where I am employed as a young meteorologist, requires spatially integrating information on snow and other meteorological parameters for climate research and applications. However, until recently, my experience in processing and validating satellite data was limited. The WMO Fellowship Programme provided an excellent opportunity to acquire on-the-job training in this area and fill the gap in my knowledge.
“The Swiss Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) Office within the International Affairs Division of the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology MeteoSwiss was my host for a 6-month WMO fellowship. I chose MeteoSwiss because of its experience and know-how in the application of satellite data for climate observation, and because I wanted to observe the inner workings and activities of another National Meteorological Service. MeteoSwiss offered me an opportunity to work with people with extensive experience in scientific research and in the implementation of projects related to systematic climate observation.
“The fellowship was full of small discoveries and victories. First, I had to learn to program, read and understand satellite data, before I could extract the time series for the particular region of interest. An important part of the training was the validation of satellite-based snow cover data with in situ measurements. Ground-based observation on snow cover in the Swiss Alps dates back in history and is indispensible for intercomparison with satellite data. The practical skills I picked up – programming and validation techniques – will be very helpful back in Lithuania where I will be able to work independently with satellite data sets and produce regional products.
“During my six months at the Swiss GCOS Office, I participated in the implementation of international projects on climate observation. The dynamic working environment was an inestimable added value and the insights gained will be helpful in starting and running projects in the LHMS Climatology Division. I hope that my presence at MeteoSwiss helped to foster the international spirit in the Swiss GCOS Office and provided some insights into operational activities of LHMS. Professional relationships built during the fellowship could become an important basis for future collaboration between LHMS and MeteoSwiss.
“I had a most valuable WMO fellowship experience and would encourage the employees of national weather services – who are eager to learn and to expand their knowledge – to open themselves to the challenge and apply for a WMO fellowship. Host institutions offer a high level of skills, knowledge and experience.”
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There is a strong and growing demand for fellowships. WMO Members are expected to undertake some cost sharing if a fellowship is granted to their staff. The general public can also contribute to the fellowships Trust Fund to enable more fellows to be supported.
Fellowship opportunities for 2013 are available online
Chris Tangey, Alice Springs Film and Television, caught images of a fire tornado or fire whirl when a small twister touched down in a fire zone at 5:28 pm Australian Central Standard Time on 11 September 2012. He was filming from about 400 meters away.
As per the Website of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: “A fire whirl generally forms when superheated air near the surface of a large fire zone rises rapidly in an airmass where sufficient horizontal or vertical vorticity is also present. Much like a dust devil or whirlwind, the rapidly rising air above a wildfire can accelerate and turn the local vorticity into a tight vertical vortex, now composed of fire instead of dust. Whereas the dust devil will often mix out its local temperature discontinuity and the vortex dissipate rather quickly, over a few minutes or less, the wildfire zone can help maintain a fairly long-lived fire whirl lasting for several minutes or more.”
The Hong Kong Observatory launched the new WMO Tropical Cyclone Forecaster Website at the end of January. The Website provides a platform for tropical cyclone forecasters to access various sources that provide conventional and specialized data/products, including numerical predictions and remote sensing observations, as well as forecasting tools for tropical cyclone development, motion, intensification and wind distribution. The Website will be regularly updated to reflect the availability of new data and products and will expand to include techniques and best practices from tropical cyclone forecast centers that could be adapted by other forecast centers.
MyWorldWeather, a free mobile application (app) with official weather forecasts across the globe, is on the move. A trial version for the Android platform supporting multiple languages, including English, Spanish and Polish, has been launched by the Hong Kong Observatory on behalf of WMO. Meanwhile, an updated iPhone app is also available incorporating Spanish and Polish language versions.
MyWorldWeather features the WMO’s World Weather Information Service, with authoritative weather forecasts for more than 1,600 cities, supplied by 133 WMO Members. Unlike other weather apps, MyWorldWeather forecasts are official as they are provided by National Meteorological and Hydrological Services.
The mobile app was first launched on the iPhone platform in October 2011. Equipped with location-based technology, the app automatically displays the latest official weather forecasts and climatological information of the city nearest to the user. Since its launch, it has been downloaded and installed more than 52,000 times. It has now been expanded to an Android platform on a trial basis in response to popular demand. Both versions are free of charge.
The app makes the World Weather Information Service (WWIS) Website available to a mobile audience. The Website, developed and maintained by the Hong Kong Observatory, has exceeded one billion page visits since it was launched in 2001. It is also available in 10 different languages, serving the international public in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
MyWorldWeather is downloadable at the following links:
This conference will bring the international community of regional climate scientists together to present and discuss results from World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) regional climate studies, with a particular emphasis on the CORDEX (Coordinated Regional climate Downscaling EXperiment) initiative.
The first day of the meeting will feature two important pre-conference events: a High-Level Session with the participation of the European Commissioners for Research & Innovation and for Climate Action, where the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presents key findings from the IPCC Working Group I contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. This will be followed by a Stakeholder Dialogue focusing on how science-based regional climate information can best serve the needs of regional decision-makers. This segment is intended to provide the global to regional socio-economic and policy context within which WCRP regional climate research operates.
The second segment of the conference over the following three days is organized around the key scientific results from Phase I of the CORDEX project, encompassing results from all participating regions worldwide. A discussion on future priority research areas for the next phase of CORDEX, of other WCRP regional climate initiatives and of major funding programmes – such as the EU FP7 and the future Horizon2020 - will also take place, taking into account the recommendations from the first segment of the conference.
Towards more drought resilient societies