Landmark WMO Data Conference sets the scene for change

A landmark WMO Data Conference has set the scene for an overall modernization of the roles, rules and requirements for the international exchange of observations and other data pertaining to Earth systems. The virtual event, which took place from 16 to 19 November, brought together more than 1 200 participants from National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs), the private sector, space agencies, global data providers and users, academia and international and development partner organizations. WMO convened the conference to review the requirements and arrangements for data exchange in order to implement the Earth systems approach outlined in the WMO Strategic Plan 2020-2023.

The global explosion in demand for weather, climate and water monitoring and prediction, coupled with a growing appreciation of the necessity to look at the whole Earth system, is leading WMO to update its data policies to harness the latest advances in satellite and computing technology. WMO also aims to close the glaring observation gaps in developing countries, and to embrace. Thus, the Organization is developing a unified, overarching data policy supporting data exchange across all key domains in an Earth systems approach – weather, climate, water, atmospheric composition, cryosphere, space weather and oceans.

The Conference aimed to bring together diverse experts in these areas to discuss the policy approach, present the views of their communities and stakeholders and to identify both the main obstacles to increase exchange of data and the best opportunities to overcome them. This was furthered when the Conference moved online due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The virtual event opened the way for a far wider range of participants – the result was one of the most widely-attended meetings in WMO history.

The Conference supported the strong commitment of WMO to the free and unrestricted exchange of essential data. This policy is enshrined in Resolution 40 (Congress XXII), which states that “WMO commits itself to broadening and enhancing the free and unrestricted international exchange of meteorological and related data and products.” It also improved understanding of the roles of a broad array of stakeholders, including the private sector, in data provision.

The Conference covered four themes:

  • The changing landscape of weather, climate and water data
  • Business models and data policy issues
  • Filling the gaps in global data coverage
  • Data exchange for Earth system monitoring and prediction

A series of seven workshops, four around the themes of the Conference and three for specific stakeholder groups (satellites, research and hydrology), were held in the months leading up to the event. These provided an opportunity for preliminary consideration of some of the major issues to be discussed and highlighted some issues that had not been considered.

A virtual poster session was facilitated by a team of WMO junior professional officers who used a combination of available web tools to organize posters under each Conference theme, with videos by Conference presenters, space for online comments, and video chat rooms which were used during the timetabled poster sessions.

Increases in data availability and exchange will have real-world benefits, in particular, improved prediction and monitoring to enable WMO Members to save lives and livelihoods. With this in mind, the conference strongly endorsed the concepts of The Global Basic Observing System (GBON) and the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF).  GBON is a WMO-led initiative to improve exchange of observational data to sustain and improve weather and climate forecasting. SOFF will provide sustainable, long-term financing to improve observations in data sparse areas and developing countries with the largest capacity gaps.

For more information, visit the WMO Data Conference website.


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