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World Meteorological Day - 23rd March

By Michael Evans - 23 Mar 2013 14:40:1 GMT
World Meteorological Day - 23rd March

World Meteorological Day 2013; Credit: © Shutterstock

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) was created on 23rd March 1950 and in 1951 it was designated as being a specialised agency within the United Nations System. There are now 191 members of the worldwide meteorological community.

Every year at this time WMO chooses a special theme to mark the anniversary day and the theme chosen for 2013 is, "Watching the weather to protect life and property". This theme ties in very neatly with one of the chief parts of the WMO, which is World Weather Watch. This was established in 1960, so 2013 marks its 50th anniversary.

And the way that World Weather Watch makes a fundamental contribution towards achieving this goal.

It is clear that the growing impact of climatic extremes cannot be ignored. During the past 30 years over 2 million people have lost their lives as a result of natural disasters. At the same time, economic losses have been estimated at US$1.5 trillion.

Weather, climate or water-related hazards, such as tropical cyclones, storm surges, heat waves, droughts, floods or related disease epidemics have accounted for nearly 90% of these disasters, more than 70% of the casualties and nearly 80% of the economic losses.

The WMO has a network of over 190 National Meteorological and Hydrological Services that provide weather forecasts and early warnings to governments and various economic sectors and individuals to help prevent and mitigate potential disasters.

World Weather Watch was actually established at the height of the Cold War and was really a landmark in global co-operation. By combining observing systems, telecommunication facilities, data processing and forecasting centres, meteorological and environmental information is made available that allows real-time exchange of information and the provision of efficient services to all countries.

Scientific and technological advances have kept pace with the expansion of needs for weather and climatic services and today World Weather Watch lies at the heart of many programmes of both WMO and other agencies. Improved observations, better monitoring of oceans and the atmosphere, improved dissemination of weather predictions, particularly related to early warnings of severe-impact weather and climate conditions have made a fundamental contribution.

With climate change and climate variability being such an important issue, it is clear that improved climate services are among the most important tools to address this. It is no longer sufficient to expect the climatic and socio-economic conditions that existed in the past to be indicative of what will happen in the future.

In a world characterised by population growth, changes of land use and urbanisation, not to mention the challenges of ensuring energy, food and water resources, it is vital to improve our understanding of climate and to make better us of climate information.

WMO members and partner institutions from the UN have launched a Global Framework for Climate Services. It is hoped that this will enhance existing climate information and strengthen climate service capabilities. An initial priority is disaster risk reduction, along with health, agriculture, food security and water resources.

This is an ambitious initiative and priority will be given to supporting Least Developed Countries, Small Island Developing States and other developing countries that are considered to be particularly vulnerable.

There is growing evidence to suggest that climate change is contributing to the increase of extreme events, such as heavy precipitation and drought and increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gasses have been linked to human activities. At the same time, economic losses from weather and climate-related disasters have increased. These have been influenced by demographic changes and growing exposure of people and their economic assets.

World Meteorological Day 2013 is an occasion to highlight the work of the National Meteorological Services that are active 24 hours a day on every day of the year as they watch the weather and make an important contribution towards the protection of life and property.

In the words of Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organisation, "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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Topics: Climate