With World Meteorological Day taking place worldwide on 23 March, the World Meteorological Organization is marking the annual event with a global call for increased investment in weather, climate and hydrological observation technologies to help populations and economies adapt to climate change and climate variability and to prepare for extreme weather.
The theme of this year’s World Meteorological Day is “Observing our Planet for a Better Future,” which underscores the importance of monitoring meteorological and hydrological phenomena to help countries achieve sustainable economic development. Virtually every socio-economic sector and human activity are influenced by weather, climate and water and actions are increasingly being taken to respond to risks. Predictions with higher levels of accuracy and lead-time can radically improve people’s chances of living in relative safety, building more comfortable lives and protecting precious natural resources more effectively.
WMO comprises 188 countries and territories and works closely with their National Meteorological and Hydrological Services, particularly in developing countries, to strengthen their abilities to better observe weather, climate and water-related phenomena, to produce forecasts and to make this information widely available on a timely basis.
Nine out of 10 natural disasters are linked to hydro-meteorological hazards, which between 1980 and 2000 killed 1.2 million people and caused more than US$900 billion in economic losses.
“National Meteorological and Hydrological Services can significantly reduce the impact caused by such extreme weather events by providing appropriate services and information, including forecasts and early warnings, to governments, the public and the media,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said. “It is not possible to prevent natural hazards, but the loss of lives and the damage that they cause can be minimized through risk management based on better observations.”
Key reasons why better observations of climate, weather and water are needed include:
- Millions of people today are more vulnerable to extreme weather events due to increased urbanization, large-scale population movements and expansion of communities into arid zones.
- To support key socio-economic issues, e.g. agriculture and food security, water resource management, health, energy production and safe transportation.
State-of-the-art equipment and capacity exists in various parts of the world today to make regular climate, weather and water-related observations and forecasts, but such resources often do not exist in the world’s poorest countries. Such nations are also the most prone to natural hazards and desperately require enhanced information and forecasts to know when to plant crops, how to best use and preserve water and how to reduce disaster risks.
WMO leads major observational initiatives to integrate global observing systems for all countries to have timely access to better weather, climate and water-related data. WMO’s observing and information systems are core components of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, an initiative to pool and strengthen all observations for multisectoral applications.
The importance of monitoring Earth’s climate as well as scientific research and assessment was endorsed by last year’s awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, co-sponsored by WMO and the United Nations Environment Programme. Next year’s WMO-organised 3rd World Climate Conference focuses on climate prediction for decision-making.