The Hydrometeorological Enterprise: The Benefits of Partnerships

The WMO and the National Weather Service (NWS) of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) once again organized an International Session in the margins of the 95th annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) in January. This event explored the unique and important role of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) in assisting society to improve environmental decision-making in the face of growing vulnerability to extreme weather and climate events.

NMHSs play a significant role in advancing the collection and analysis of hydrological and meteorological observations; the modelling of hydrological and meteorological phenomena; the dissemination of forecasts, warnings and as an authoritative advice about extreme events; and in improving institutional capability to make the best use of this science and technology. Collectively, these are referred to as the hydrometeorological enterprise. This enterprise engages organizations from three sectors: academic, commercial and public (including, but not limited to, NMHSs). The International Session considered ways to bring these sectors closer together, through, amongst others, the engagement of scientific societies such as the AMS and its counterparts around the world.

The first of two panel focused on national, regional and global perspectives of how well the hydrometeorological enterprise is assisting with environmental decision-making around the world. The second explored how the global hydrometeorological enterprise could best overcome challenges and seize opportunities. The sessions highlighted the following concerns:

  • the need to ensure that all of those who depend on their services for decision-making understand the central role of NMHSs in the hydrometeorological enterprise;
  • the need for a flexible and responsive hydrometeorological enterprise given the rapid rate of change in our world;
  • the value in developing and maintaining strategic partnerships with those that share a common vision;
  • identifying the benefits and challenges of working with the private sector;
  • the challenge of sustain funding for NMHSs and observational infrastructure;
  • the a need to ensure cross-disciplinary and cross-sectoral collaboration; and
  • the paramount importance of open data for a successful and productive weather enterprise.

A better understanding of key partners and users – and the type of information they need to prepare for and react to weather events – will increase the likelihood of success of the hydrometeorological enterprise as it works collectively to achieve its mission of saving lives and property. With this in mind, participants shared their experiences in order to promote a better understanding of how building partnerships across the weather enterprise can help NMHSs in delivering services. Below are a few examples.

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The Flood Forecasting Centre (FFC) is a successful working partnership between the Met Office and the Environment Agency, which brings together the sciences of meteorology and hydrology in a jointly-staffed specialist centre. The partnership was forged following the 2007 summer flood, when 55 000 properties were inundated, 13 lives were lost, 7 000 people were rescued and damages climbed to £4.5 billion. Operational since April 2009, the FFC was set up as a pilot and subsequently recognized as an essential and permanent part of the flood-warning process in England and Wales. “For the responder community, our key target audience, the principle benefits are in accuracy, consistency and lead time,” said Ian Lisk, Head of Natural Hazards at the Met Office. He continued, “By using a joint decision-making framework for flood and weather warnings we are speaking with a single authoritative voice and providing clarity for customers.”

Initially, meteorologists and hydrologists from the two organizations would sit alongside each other and interpret forecasts separately. Then, a structured technical development framework was established to provide skills assurance for a single hydrometeorologist role. This resulted in efficiency gains, greater agility when floods occur and a varied programme of operational and development work, which is more fulfilling for FFC staff. “The successful partnership between two key public sector agencies has seen the Flood Forecasting Centre grow quickly to be a trusted adviser,” said John Curtin, Director of Incident Management at the Environment Agency. “Furthermore, with the centre as a catalyst, working relationships across the two organizations have flourished, connecting relevant teams and joining-up communications leading to more efficient use of resources.”

By Dee Cotgrove, Executive Head of Media and Communications, Met Office,

The Caribbean

The Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) deems its most important partnership to be with its key stakeholders: the Member States of the Caribbean Meteorological Organization (CMO), in particular their NMHSs. The strength of this partnership, which has been growing since 1967, is in the products and services that CIMH provides to its Members:

  • training - for personnel from NMHSs and other national and regional stakeholder groups in order to improve their ability to integrate weather, climate and hydrological information into their planning and decision-making processes;
  • local and regional scientific research and development - to inform regional decision-making processes in order to ensure sustainable social and economic development;
  • quality-control, management and archiving of Member climate data; and
  • management and maintenance of the national and regional hydro-meteorological observation and early warning networks. 

CIMH has expanded on these in recent years, through the WMO Regional Climate Centre for the Caribbean (a Demonstration Phase hosted at CIMH), by developing a range of climate products and services to risk-inform decision-making systems in key climate-sensitive sectors such as water-resources management, agriculture and food security, disaster-risk reduction, energy and health. Success in supporting the needs of Member is expected to increase access to funding from local, regional and international sources, which will contribute to making these activities sustainable; to building national and regional capacity, to reducing economic losses through more resilient development and to supporting sustainable social and economic development.

Dr. David Farrell, Principal, Caribbean Institute for Meteorology & Hydrology,


The Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) has several successful research and development partnerships, including with its customers. For example, Destia Inc, a government-owned company responsible for road construction and maintenance, received standard FMI road temperature, precipitation, humidity and wind forecasts until a few years ago when the two established a joint winter road maintenance centre at FMI headquarters. There, from October to April, Destia operational staff work side-by-side with the FMI 24/7 forecasting staff. FMI is no longer just supplying Destia with the weather parameters. Instead, Destia gets precise information on when and how they should operate their 600 trucks and the amounts of salt that will be needed. Destia has made considerable savings, and the fluidity and safety of winter road traffic have been enhanced. The photo below shows a winter road maintenance truck.

Prof. Petteri Taalas. Director General, Finnish Meteorological Institute,


MET Norway’s most successful partnership is with the public broadcasting company NRK. Together, MET Norway and NRK launched what has become the world’s fifth largest weather information website: While MET Norway is responsible for the back-end system and data flow, NRK is responsible for the front-end technology and communicating the forecasts. The result is the most technologically advanced, high-quality weather forecasts on the avant garde of communication and social media trends.

By sharing data freely through and organizing communication between partners and the public through a front line of staff who receive and analyze the feedback, Met Norway has learned a great deal about the quality of its data and the communication of weather forecasts. This has led to improvements in Met Norway numerical weather prediction models, equipment and communications.

The free data policy and public feedback have given Met Norway a better grasp of the public’s needs and level of understanding. As a result, Met Norway scientists are concentrating on aspects of the forecasting models and the weather forecasts that are of importance to the public.

MET Norway, Heidi Lippestad, Director for Organization and Communication,

South Africa

The rural region in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa is particularly susceptible to severe weather, thus the South African Weather Service (SAWS) invested in an S-band radar order to improve the forecasting capability in this area. SAWS identified a suitable location for it in the poor and under-developed communal lands of Highbury, a village with dilapidated mud schools and a high rate of unemployment. SAWS partnered with the Highbury community, the Departments of Land Affairs and Basic Education, and ESKOM, the power utility company, to erect a new school.

In return for facilitating this partnership, SAWS was allowed to build its radar station in this village. It now employs some of the community youths and women to provide security and cleaning services for the radar station. SAWS is now able to provide coverage in this vulnerable area for nowcasting and forecasting purposes and is communicating accurate information to local disaster management authorities.  

Mark Majodina, Senior Manager - International Relations, South African Weather Service,

Global Ocean

Cargo ships typically have multinational crews, and multinational partnership has proven successful in maintaining the high-quality services they require. Storm-driven winds and waves can have a major impact on ocean transportation and operations. International weather services and routing experts provide information to help ship crews anticipate and avoid dangerous conditions, minimize cargo damage or loss, and take the most favourable route.  

Today’s marine weather forecasters use numerical weather and wave prediction models, conventional ship and buoy observations, satellite imagery and satellite-derived ocean wind and wave data from on-board radar instruments called scatterometers and altimeters.  

Marine forecasters around the world use satellite-sensed ocean winds data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Seawinds scatterometer on the QuikSCAT satellite, the European Space Agency’s European Remote Sensing (ERS) -1 and -2 satellites, and the European Advanced scattometer (ASCAT) on Metop-A. Thus, the failure of the Seawinds on QuikSCAT resulted in the loss of wide-swath coverage, reducing forecasters’ situational awareness of strong mid-latitude ocean storms and tropical cyclones. Fortunately, around that time in September 2009, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched the second satellite in its ocean series, OceanSat-2.

To help fill the gap left by QuikSCAT, experts from ISRO, EUMETSAT (the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites), the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, NOAA and NASA discussed the potential to optimize the new Indian satellite’s ASCAT data and share it in near real-time with the global community. As a result of this very successful partnership, OceanSat-2 successfully filled the gap, it has been providing reliable and accurate ocean winds to the operational community of marine meteorologist and the oceanographic community for over four years.

Joseph Sienkiewicz and Ming Ji, Ocean Applications Branch, NOAA/NWS Ocean Prediction Center, and 


Besides the public, nearly all of the key service users with which DWD cooperates closely are German federal or state authorities at various levels. DWD provides them with relevant weather forecasts and warning data as well as with climate information and user-tailored services.

Cooperation with private companies usually relates to the development of solutions for technical applications and distribution systems such as the Global Information System Centre (GISC) that DWD provides for the WMO Information System (WIS). However, DWD has also cooperated with private companies on a few projects and activities. For example, DWD and the German Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) are developing an operational support system for the North and Baltic Seas in order to provide a private business partnership in the offshore wind energy industry with high-quality meteorological and oceanographic information. This information will support yield predictions in the fast-growing market of renewable energy generation and comply with safety regulations at the facilities. Another example is the use by Deutsche Bahn AG, the railroad administration, of operational wind forecasts for managing train operations.

Dr. Paul Becker, Vice President and Director Climate and Environment, Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD)


Anticipating the Flood (Anticipando la crecida) is a joint initiative of the Department of Atmosphere and Ocean Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires, the Research Centre of the Sea and Atmosphere, the Franco-Argentine Institute for the Study of Climate and its Impacts and the Argentine National Weather Service. Its objective is to contribute to the management and prevention of disaster risks associated with flooding by heavy rains and sudestada events (strong south easterly winds) in the Metropolitan Area of Buenos Aires. The initiative seeks to enable dialogue with various stakeholders and governmental actors.

The project started in 2013 and concentrates on two main activities: a) improving forecasts of sudestada events and associated flooding by coupling hydrological and atmospheric models and integrating these products into a GISS system; and b) working closely with social scientists to understand the level of local knowledge about this phenomenon. This includes developing field surveys and interactive maps to depict areas of risk and levels of vulnerability.

The interdisciplinary and intersectoral team that implements Anticipating the Flood has organized workshops with neighbours and local stakeholders; professors, researchers and students of meteorology, oceanography and social sciences; and engineers and other professionals from various national institutions. The aim is to improve communication among local communities, scientists and local and national authorities.

The project has successfully brought together diverse actors, adapted meteorological forecasts to local necessities and facilitated access to information by tailoring it so that it can be easily understood and used by stakeholders.

Celeste Saulo, Director, National Meteorological Service (SMN),

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