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About the Public Weather Services programme of WMO

Public Weather Services (PWS) is one of the Open Programme Area Groups (OPAGs) under the overall responsibility of the Commission for Basic Systems (CBS).   The other OPAGs of CBS are the Integrated Observing Systems (IOS), the Information Systems and Services (ISS) and the Data Processing and Forecasting Systems (DPFS).

WMO established its Public Weather Services (PWS) Programme in 1994 to assist the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) of WMO Member countries and territories to:

  • Provide forecasts in the areas of weather, climate and water to citizens in order to aid them in their day-to-day activities;
  • Provide warnings and information of high impact weather and extremes of climate, to government authorities to aid them in their mission to protect the lives, livelihoods and property of their citizens;
  • Engage in education, awareness and preparedness activities aimed at helping citizens to make the best use of forecasts and warnings information, understand the potential threats of high impact weather and extremes of climate, and be aware of the appropriate mitigating actions.

What Public Weather Services are

Every day of the year, people’s lives are affected by weather and climate. Storms, floods, droughts and other extreme events frequently threaten safety of life and destroy property around the world. National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) have no greater responsibility than ensuring the safety of life, the protection of property and the well-being of their nations’ citizens. Consequently, they must provide warnings and forecasts in a timely, reliable and comprehensive manner. Furthermore the forecasts and other information on weather- and climate-related events that the NMHSs provide are a vital component in the decision making processes for many weather-sensitive sectors, as well as for disaster management.

Why are Public Weather Services so Important?

Because weather and climate play such a significant role in the cultures and lifestyles of people around the world, providing timely and accurate weather warnings and forecasts is one of the most important functions of every NMHS. It is also the one that gets the most attention from the public and from decision makers. Indeed, the visibility of an NMHS, especially during severe weather events, can determine the amount of public investment it will receive. When people see that weather information, forecasts and warnings, along with climatological and hydrological data and analyses, can significantly improve their safety and protect their property, public support for the NMHS becomes much stronger.

Public Weather Services, provided on a daily basis, meet a broad spectrum of local and national needs, including;

  • Early warnings for natural disaster prevention and mitigation;
  • information on changes in the weather to help the general public in planning their daily personal and social activities;
  • advice for sustaining and improving environmental quality; and
  • data-to-day up to seasonal and climate forecasts, and other products in support of weather-sensitive economic sectors

Who Benefits?

All user groups rely heavily on this broad range of services to make sound decisions concerning public safety and cost-efficiency. Governmental policy makers, international agencies and individuals use products and services of NMHSs in support of, among other things, agriculture, fishing, forestry, energy and water resources management, recreation and tourism, health services, urban design and transport. Business, too, benefits from public weather services in many areas, including insurance, commerce and trade, and construction.

Safety of Life and Property

Severe and dangerous weather can take many forms, which vary widely in terms of both time and space. Local events such as tornadoes and thunderstorms cause sudden threats to a relatively small number of people, while persisting phenomena such as flood-producing rain or drought occur on a much wider basis. In both the short-term severe weather events and the longer-term slow onset phenomena, the human distress caused by the spreading of disease and food scarcity is often much worse than the initial direct damage. Sometimes persistent climate-related events even lead to sustained problems of famine and mass emigration.

While weather phenomena themselves cannot be prevented from happening, much can be done to mitigate their impacts and prevent them from becoming major disasters. Public Weather Services have a vital role in most stages of a comprehensive approach to achieve this goal. Specifically, they can contribute significantly to:

  • awareness and education;
  • hazard and risk evaluation;
  • mitigation, specifically provision of forecasts and warnings, preparedness and prevention; and
  • response, including post-disaster support

PWS Strategic Objectives

The strategic objectives which guide the implementation of the Public weather Services Programme are as follows:

  • Improving early warning services and products and their dissemination as an integral part of PWS;
  • Engaging in capacity building and outreach activities;
  • Improving the reach of NMHSs products and services;
  • Promoting the application of the science of meteorology, climatology, hydrology and related technology to improve products and services;
  • Engaging in demonstration projects and collaborative activities as appropriate;
  • Establishing and promoting best PWS practices;
  • Researching and providing information on social and economic aspects of weather services;
  • Promulgating the results of the work of PWS expert teams and groups;
  • Engaging in surveys and assessments;
  • Promoting and strengthening the brand of WMO.

Applications of PWS

PWS in support of safety of life and property

Weather elements pose a threat to life, property and the environment when they are severely intense or persist for abnormal periods of time. Hazardous and extreme weather exist on a widely varying temporal and spatial scale: local severe events such as tornadoes and severe thunderstorms cause sudden threats to a relatively small number of people, while persisting phenomena such as flood-producing rain or drought often occur on a wider basis. Even more severe than the direct damages of severe and extreme weather are the indirect effects on food security and spreading of diseases. Often continuous weather effects lead to sustained problems of desertification, famine and mass emigration.

Public weather services (PWS) make substantial contributions to disaster preparedness and response through the application of meteorological information and forecasts in the different stages of disaster management including: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. To prevent and mitigate the effects of severe weather phenomena, PWS support all stages of disaster management:

  • Awareness and Education
  • Preparedness and Prevention
  • Dissemination of warnings and forecasts
  • Reception and use of the information
  • Mitigation (including coordination and post-disaster support)

Agriculture:

Agriculture is a dominant activity in many countries. Consequently, the provision of services to agriculture to provide day-to-day guidance in scheduling farming operations such as planting, irrigation, spraying and harvesting as well as other activities such as food storage and transportation is a very high priority of NMHSs.

Water resource management:

Water resource projects, involving construction of dams, wells, water and sewage treatment plants, are designed on the basis of knowledge of a region's climate. Their efficient operation relies on up-to-date information on temperature, rainfall and humidity. To assure continuously sufficient supply of water for farming, industry and households, close links should be maintained between public weather services and the authorities that manage water resource projects.

Energy supply:

The correlation between the use of energy and the variations of daily weather is well known: heating and cooling requirements strongly depend on cool or hot weather conditions. PWS assist in the operational planning to meet the expected demand for electric power, heating fuel and gasoline.

Air pollution and environmental quality:

Inclusion of air quality information in public weather bulletins in response to the public requests, is becoming increasingly popular among NMHSs. Timely information enables the public to take actions to reduce air pollution levels and to avoid polluted areas. Such actions include using public transportation or simply staying indoors. Meteorological knowledge and information also have applications for sustaining and improving environmental quality. Applications include the warnings in emergency cases of oil spill, toxic gas releases or nuclear accidents and the continuous monitoring, assessment and prevention of air pollution from traffic and industries using dispersion models. Weather forecasts also predict the onset of the monsoon and so prevent wide-spread bush and forest fires.

Health:

There is a growing public awareness of the linkages between human health and weather and climate which could be responded to through the inclusion of advice on risks caused by changing weather conditions, UV radiation (skin cancer), spread of pollens, dusts etc. (allergies, attacks of bronchial asthma) or ozone concentrations. They also help to prepare for conditions favoring the spread of diseases as typhoid, malaria or cholera.

Transport:

The traveling public and the transportation industry are two distinct client groups being served by PWS. Most people obtain information on hazardous weather conditions from public forecasts which in turn helps them to plan their trip and decide on the modes of transport. Road and rail traffic operations too require information on ice, snow, winds, temperature and floods.

Recreation and Tourism:

As recreation and tourism are becoming an increasingly important economic sector around the globe, weather forecasts are not only used by visitors to schedule their activities, but also by the tourism industry to contribute to the safety and security of tourists and to promote specific countries and regions as attractive destinations.

 

 
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