With this year’s World Meteorological Day, WMO celebrates “60 years of service for your safety and well-being”. This issue of the Bulletin joins the celebration, taking a look at the evolution of several key programmes and focus areas at WMO over the past six decades. These activities have brought new levels of cooperation to the international meteorological community. In his customary yearly message for World Meteorological Day, the WMO Secretary-General shares some thoughts about the Organization’s contributions over the years.
In the opening feature, Tillmann Mohr takes readers back to the early days of the satellite revolution. From the first meteorological satellite in 1960 and the subsequent establishment of the World Weather Watch to the creation of the Global Observing System (GOS), WMO has played a critical role in coordinating satellites of individual countries to give worldwide coverage. Work in this area traverses boundaries and brings together countries in an unparalleled fashion. Meteorological parameters extracted from satellite data have revolutionized the study of weather, water and climate.
WMO not only coordinates observations from space, but also from land, air and sea. GOS coordinates the provision of reliable meteorological observations through around 11 000 land stations, 1 300 upper-air stations, 4 000 ships, about 1 200 drifting and 200 moored buoys, and 3 000 ARGOS profiling floats, as well as 3 000 commercial aircraft, five operational polar-orbiting meteorological satellites, six geostationary meteorological satellites, and several environmental research and development satellites.
WMO has been a pioneer in the collection, exchange and standardization of data over the years, providing the basis for climate monitoring, weather forecasts and warnings, and key hydrological advisories. In this issue, Fred Branski outlines many WMO contributions to this field, highlighting recent new technological needs and developments. An important component of this work is ensuring that instruments and methods of observation are standardized worldwide. John Nash and his co-authors explain the basis for WMO work in this area, describing the history of the Commission for Instruments and Methods of Observations.
The observations and monitoring facilitated worldwide by WMO bring to bear essential data and information used by public weather services. These services include the provision of weather forecasts, early warnings on hazardous weathers and work in collaboration with disaster relief organizations to minimize loss of life and property. How the public receives such information has changed dramatically over the past 60 years, as B.Y. Lee and Hilda Lam explain in their article on public weather services. Continual advances in weather monitoring and prediction, along with technological advances such as personal mobile devices, have greatly enhanced the ability of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services to deliver to their citizens timely weather information and early warnings.
The provision of timely climate information was a key subject of discussion at World Climate Conference-3 (WCC-3) in Geneva, Switzerland from 31 August to 4 September 2009, when more than 2 000 scientific and sectoral experts, policymakers and decision-makers met. The Global Framework for Climate Services, established by high-level representatives from 160 countries during the WCC-3 High-level Segment, aims to enhance climate services for decision-makers, climate-sensitive sectors and the public. Articles on WCC-3 summarize the major outcomes of the international meeting and activities related to WCC-3 at the December United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, and highlight excerpts from several of the distinguished Heads of State and/or Government and high-level officials who attended WCC-3.
An important backbone of WMO climate activities is the Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW), which as highlighted by Ed Dlugokencky and his co-authors in this issue, continuously monitors the atmosphere for levels of greenhouse gases and other atmospheric constituents that influence the global climate. GAW provides data for scientific assessments and early warnings of changes in the chemical composition and related physical characteristics of the atmosphere that may adversely affect the environment.
In addition to weather and climate, water is a key area of WMO activities. Harry Lins explores the evolution of hydrology activities at WMO, looking at the critical decisions that led to the robust programme that exists today. As in the weather and climate arenas, WMO hydrology efforts have greatly expanded cross-border collaboration, improving the collection, monitoring, assessment and management of water resources worldwide.
A final major area of focus for this sixtieth anniversary issue is in the arena of capacity building. Development of human and technological resources, especially in developing countries, underpins most WMO activities. The Development and Regional Activities Department has greatly assisted the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services of WMO Members in expanding and developing over the years, while also working to establish strategic partnerships across the United Nations System and the international community.
A milestones section commemorates key events in the history of WMO. This Bulletin issue kicks off what will be a yearlong celebration of meteorological achievements and cooperation within the international scientific community.