Watching the weather to protect life and property: Celebrating 50 years of World Weather Watch (2013)

Watching the weather to protect life and property: Celebrating 50 years of World Weather Watch (2013)

Message from M. Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization

The date of 23 March was chosen to celebrate the entry into force, in 1950, of the Convention of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The theme chosen for 2013 is “Watching the weather to protect life and property”, also celebrating 50 Years of the World Weather Watch. This theme highlights one of the raisons d’être of WMO — the reduction of casualties and damage from weather-, climate- and water-related hazards. At the same time, World Meteorological Day 2013 acknowledges the fundamental contribution of the World Weather Watch to this goal.

The growing impact of weather extremes cannot be ignored. Over the last 30 years natural disasters took the lives of over 2 million people and produced economic losses estimated at over 1.5 trillion US dollars. Almost 90 percent of such disasters, more than 70 percent of the casualties and almost 80 percent of the economic losses were caused by weather-, climate- or water-related hazards such as tropical cyclones, storm surges, heat waves, droughts, floods or related disease epidemics.

WMO provides a fundamental contribution to the protection of life and property, through its Programmes and the network of over 190 National Meteorological and Hydrological Services. Weather forecasts and early warnings to governments, various economic sectors and individuals help prevent and mitigate disasters.

The World Weather Watch has played an essential role in this effort. Established in 1963, in the middle of the Cold War, the World Weather Watch is a landmark in global cooperation. It combines observing systems, telecommunication facilities, and data-processing and forecasting centres to make available meteorological and environmental information needed to allow real-time exchange of information and to provide efficient services in all countries.
With the expansion of needs for weather and climate services and with spectacular scientific and technological advances, today the World Weather Watch lies at the heart of many programmes of both WMO and other agencies. It provides a fundamental contribution to WMO priorities through improved observations, atmosphere and ocean monitoring, dissemination of weather predictions worldwide, especially early warnings of severe-impact weather and climate conditions.

Improved climate services are emerging today as one of the most crucial tools to address and adapt to climate change and climate variability. The assumption that climatic and socio-economic conditions of the past are indicative of current and future conditions is no longer sufficient. It is imperative to further improve our understanding of climate and make better use of climate information to address societal needs, in a world characterized by population growth, changes in land use, urbanization, and challenges in ensuring food security and managing water resources and energy.

In order to enhance existing climate information and strengthen climate service capabilities, WMO Members and partner institutions from the United Nations launched the Global Framework for Climate Services. Disaster risk reduction is one of the initial priority areas for the provision of climate services, along with health, agriculture and food security, and water resources.

To achieve the goal of this ambitious initiative, a priority will be to support Least Developed Countries, Small Island Developing States and other vulnerable developing countries to strengthen national capabilities in climate services and early warning and inform climate policies and adaptation approaches through scientific information, free and open access to data and transfer of technology.

The link between climate change, extreme events and natural disasters has been recently highlighted by a Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, created and co sponsored by WMO and the United Nations Environment Programme. There is growing evidence from observations gathered by the WMO network of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services that climate change is contributing to increase extreme events like heavy precipitation and drought, as well as coastal high water related to sea level rise. There is growing evidence of the link with human activities, in particular increase in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, which have reached record highs. Economic losses from weather- and climate-related disasters have increased, mostly due to demographic changes and growing exposure of people and economic assets.

World Meteorological Day 2013 is an occasion to highlight the work that National Meteorological and Hydrological Services accomplish 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to watch the weather and protect life and property. I am confident that this celebration will also contribute to underline the benefits of further investing in meteorological and hydrological infrastructures, the importance of global cooperation and the urgency to raise capacities for the provision of better weather and climate services for all those individuals, communities and nations who need them the most.

Weather, climate and disaster risk reduction are central to any national and international agenda that addresses the challenges of the 21st century, including sustainable development. World Meteorological Day 2013 is a unique occasion to reinforce this message.

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