Media centre >> Fact sheets
Questions and answers on the Japan earthquake aftermath
What is WMO doing in response to the Japanese crisis?
The World Meteorological Organization has activated its Environmental Emergency Response mechanism and is providing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with meteorological information as per agreement under the Joint Radiation Emergency Management Plan of the International Organization (IAEA EPR-JPLAN 2010). On behalf of WMO, the National Meteorological Service of Austria (ZAMG) is providing meteorological support to the IAEA Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) in Vienna on a 24/7 basis, and the National Meteorological Service of Switzerland (MétéoSuisse), is providing meteorological support to WHO at Headquarters in Geneva.
WMO created a network of Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres (RSMCs) for Environmental Emergency Response (EER) following the accident at the Chernobyl, Ukraine, nuclear power plant on 26 April, 1986. There are eight meteorological centres that provide forecasts of diffusion, deposition and transport modelling of hazardous substances in the air, in the event of an environmental catastrophe that crosses international borders. This modelling indicates how much of the hazardous material will be transported in the air, and the rate (over time) at which it will fall to the ground (this is known as “deposition”).
The RSMCs have the responsibility of providing specialized forecasts, including atmospheric transport modelling results that show where the pollutants from such accidents are travelling once they get into the atmosphere.
The support of the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and the RSMCs is an assistance in interpretation and use of these products for decision making by the specialized agencies such as the IAEA and WHO.
What role does weather play in the dispersal of nuclear contamination?
The direction and speed of the wind is a determinant factor in the spreading and transport of the particles. Precipitation is a key factor in determining what fraction of the contaminants are washed out and reach the soil or the ocean.
What about the current weather conditions?
Weather information is constantly updated and it is important to consult the authoritative source for information: the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services
Japan Meteorological Agency
China Meteorological Administration
Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring
What about the risk to air travel?
WMO is cooperating with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to provide meteorological advice on the transport and dispersal of radionucleides.
What about the procedures at sea?
WMO is working closely with the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
Navigational warnings, danger zones and meteorological warnings are disseminated via the existing Worldwide Navigational Warning Service via automated alerts (NAVTEX and SafetyNet systems), in the relevant NAVAREAS and METAREAS, which are the geographic areas in which Governments have designated responsibility for issuing navigation and weather warnings. There are 21 such areas covering the world's oceans. The Metarea XI coordinators are China (CMA) and Japan (JMA).
Marine Meteorological forecasts and warnings issued by CMA and JMA can also be downloaded at: weather.gmdss.org/XI.html