Volume 57 (4) — October 2008

In this issue

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photoThis issue of the WMO Bulletin considers the theme “Weather services for everyone” and highlights various key aspects of public weather services (PWS).

Gerald Fleming examines the concept of service delivery in the context of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs). What does service delivery mean and what does it imply? The article brings out the need for NMHSs to focus on the users of meteorological services by defining their needs. These needs should then inform the design of future PWS systems.

Depicting public expectations of services from NMHSs as analogous to a customer who has ordered a pizza, the author succeeds in communicating to the reader, in a simple and interesting way, the level of quality of services that the public and other customers expect. The article explains four desirable attributes that should apply to all products and services of NMHSs, namely: availability, dependability, usability and credibility.

John Guiney tackles the subject of the emergence of new, innovative and technologically advanced forecast systems and communication networks. He states that these systems offer the opportunity to integrate public weather service dissemination and delivery. Using geographical information system and Global Positioning System capabilities, NMHSs will have the opportunity to satisfy customer and partner demands for increasing precision, accuracy and detailed, location-specific hydrometeor­ological forecasts and warnings. This article provides an overview of several key innovations, technological advancements and information technology systems/applications which have, or can have, a substantial impact on improving NMHS public weather service delivery. It focuses on digital database forecasting, next-generation forecast work stations, nowcasting systems and applications.

The subject of the application of economic valuation to hydrometeorological services is addressed by J.K. Lazo, N.F. Bushek, E.K. Laidlaw, R.S. Raucher, T.J. Teisberg, C.J. Wagner and R.F. Weiher. Economic valuation has gained prominence in modern times, as NMHSs focus more on providing gains to society. The authors first make a distinction between “the economy” and “economics” in an effort to clarify what valid economic research and application can do to support NMHS efforts. They also cover some issues related to data validity and the appropriate methods for economic assessment, particularly benefit-cost analysis, and describe a soon-to-be-released resource—a primer on economics for NMHSs.

David Grimes concludes that NMHSs will need to adapt to changing public policy, environmental risks and new ways of doing business. Making these changes will certainly not only lead to the sustainability of PWS over the long term, but rather should be viewed as a key means to support sustainable development goals. One key requirement will be a successful integration of security, health and environmental issues in much the same way as the water security issue has been integrated. The author argues that successful public weather services will utilize the most accessible systems and will capitalize upon the engagement of stakeholders, partners and especially the decision-makers of the future.

Public service and commerce are discussed by Neil Gordon. He points out that NMHSs provide core infrastructure and basic public weather services, including forecasts and warnings through government funding. Additional, value-added weather services can be either cost recovered or commercial. Recovery of costs of provision is appropriate where an NMHS is the only organi­zation providing, or capable of providing, the value-added service. For commercial services, the NMHS is not the only possible provider and so the price for such services will be set by the market through competition. The author states that NMHSs need to be wary of the complex issues around commercial services and consider whether it may be better to work in partnership with private sector companies.

Jon Gill begins by stating that uncertainty is an inherent ingredient in the hydrometeorological forecasting process. His article addresses the issue of communicating forecast uncertainty. It includes a discussion of the sources of uncertainty and touches on the related science (e.g. probabilistic forecasting and the use of numerical weather prediction ensembles). It focuses on how service providers, including NMHSs, can utilize forecast uncertainty information and includes examples of the best ways of communicating this information from NMHSs and other providers for the benefit of users.

The subject of rapid urbanization and the environment is addressed by Tang Xu. He points out that urbanization has led to a wide-range of potential consequences to urban weather and climate, causing more frequent heat waves and high ozone episodes with profound impacts on human health, as well as on ecosystems. The article considers the changes and related service requirements in urban environments due to rapid urbanization and the new services being developed, with an example.

M.C. Wong and H. Lam explain the new WMO approach towards capacity-building initiated by the PWS Open Programme Area Group: learning through doing. The idea is that WMO will select a small group of countries and arrange for mentoring agents to work alongside the staff of their NMHSs, assisting them to improve their communication with users in selected target sectors and to develop and deliver an improved range of products and services which would enhance the socio-economic benefits to be derived from them.

T.A. Ghebreesus, Z. Tadese, D. Jima, E. Bekele, A. Mihretie, Y. Ye-e Yihdego, T. Dinku, S.J. Connor and D.P. Rogers treat the subject of the role of NMHSs in public health and the control of climate-sensitive diseases such as malaria, especially in developing countries and the Least Developed Countries. Their article states why it is important to understand the environmental context of a disease in order to effectively develop an accurate picture of the efficacy of any intervention strategy in its control. It demonstrates why it is important for the health sector to understand and quantify the specific effects of climate variability and change, both on the overall disease burden and on the effectiveness of the public health response.

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