The core business of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services is to serve public good by providing reliable and timely weather, climate and related information to the community at large. These Services have an essential role to play in bringing about disaster reduction through delivery of quality public weather services, including the provision of weather forecasts, early warnings on hazardous weather, outreach activities to enhance public awareness of weather hazards, interpretation and use of the weather information, as well as collaboration with disaster relief organizations to minimize loss of life and property.
National meteorological services depend on the international cooperation and underpinning infrastructure of the World Weather Watch (WWW) to perform this service. The Public Weather Services (PWS) Programme, created in 1991, assists National Meteorological and Hydrological Services with the many internal and external challenges – funding, maintenance of observational networks, competition from private sector service providers, staffing, evolving technology, increasing urbanization and pollution, etc – that they face.
Looking to the future – challenges and opportunities
A number of global factors – such as population growth, increasing urbanization and technological breakthrough in communication – will impact the nature, range and delivery of weather services to the public over the next few decades. The biggest impact will probably be on services related to food production and water resource management. National Meteorological and Hydrological Services will be expected to support local governments when it comes to the use of scarce resources, such as water and energy. Understanding urban meteorology will be crucial to meeting the challenges and needs of megacities and to sustainable development. Urban and rural lifestyles will further diverge and require different services. Ever more attention will focus on environmental matters, foremost among them those brought about by climate variability and change.
Governments, concerned with the security of citizens from both natural and human-induced hazards, will increasingly turn to National Meteorological and Hydrological Services for information in support of reducing these risks. More will be expected from them, especially in the reassessment of hazards and in providing early warnings and improved lead times to allow more effective response. National Meteorological and Hydrological Services will also be expected to provide forecasts of environmental conditions that may lead to disease outbreaks and to deliver advance warnings of these to public health communities.
The successful evolution of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services will depend on the degree of their engagement with citizens, clients and partners in establishing priorities and integrating advances in science and technology. As primary information conduits, they will have to provide a variety of new products and services that will inform sound decision and policy-making at the local, national and international levels. To be effective, National Meteorological Services will have to monitor and recognize the evolution of user means, methods and needs, and integrate improved science, new technologies and applications to expand decision support services.
These are the kinds of challenges that motivated creation of Public Weather Services Programme and with which it will continue to assist Members.