Adaptation to climate change: making climate services work for society / International Polar Year / World Meteorological Day 2009 / La Niña update / Coping with increasing droughts / World Day to Combat Desertification 2009 / The global climate in 2008 / Challenges and opportunities in agrometeorology / Commission for Agricultural Meteorology—15th session to be held in Brazil
Despite progress in our understanding and prediction of the climate system, societies, institutions and governments remain unprepared in the face of natural hazards which often become disasters. Frequent natural disasters slow down the socio-economic development of a country, since most available resources are used for saving lives and rehabilitating affected communities.
Climate-related disasters constitute more than 80 per cent of natural disasters worldwide, thus the ability to manage their impacts is an important step in stimulating socio-economic development and efforts to reduce poverty. Efforts to improve our ability to manage climate-related risks and opportunities cannot be addressed by a single institution, however.
World Climate Conference-3 (WCC-3) offers a unique opportunity for the world community to develop a Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) to “accelerate global action to address climate-related risks that threaten the well-being of society and to capitalize on associated opportunities in the context of achieving sustainable socio-economic growth, especially in developing and least developed countries”.
It will aim to do this by improving the gathering and sharing of climate observations and products; encouraging interdisciplinary, targeted research to develop climate predictions and tools to support their applications; encouraging the development of policies that support the application of climate services; and building national, regional and institutional capacities to generate and apply climate services.
The successful implementation of the GFCS will be a vital step in enabling nations to adapt to changing climate and will contribute to the agenda of the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, especially on issues regarding adaptation.
For more information, see the new Conference Website on the WMO homepage.
International Polar Year (IPY) is a large International Council for Science (ICSU)/WMO scientific programme focused on the Arctic and the Antarctic, which started on 1 March 2007 and is planned to close in June 2010 at the time of the IPY Science Conference in Oslo. IPY involves over 200 projects, with thousands of scientists from over 60 nations examining a wide range of physical, biological and social research topics.
Preliminary findings are reported in The State of Polar Research, released by WMO and ICSU, revealing new evidence of the widespread effects of global warming in the polar regions.
IPY has provided a critical boost to polar research during a time in which the global environment is changing faster than ever in human history. It now appears clear that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass, contributing to sea-level rise. Warming in the Antarctic is much more widespread than was previously thought and it now appears that the rate of ice loss from Greenland is increasing.
Researchers also found that, in the Arctic, during the summers of 2007 and 2008, the minimum extent of year-round sea ice decreased to its lowest level since satellite records began 30 years ago. IPY expeditions also recorded an unprecedented rate of sea-ice drift in the Arctic. Moreover, the types and extent of vegetation in the Arctic shifted, affecting grazing animals and hunting.
Other evidence for global warming comes from IPY research vessels that have confirmed above-global-average warming in the Southern Ocean. A freshening of the bottom water near the Antarctic is consistent with increased ice melt and could affect ocean circulation.
IPY research has also identified large pools of carbon stored as methane in permafrost. Thawing permafrost threatens to destabilize the stored methane—a greenhouse gas—and send it into the atmosphere. IPY researchers along the Siberian coast observed substantial emissions of methane from ocean sediments.
Surveys of the Southern Ocean have uncovered a remarkably rich, colourful and complex range of life. Some species appear to be migrating poleward in response to global warming. Other IPY studies reveal interesting evolutionary trends such as many present-day deep-sea octopuses having originated from common ancestor species that still survive in the Southern Ocean.
IPY has also given atmospheric research new insight. Researchers have discovered that North Atlantic storms are major sources of heat and moisture for the polar regions. Understanding these mechanisms will improve forecasts of the path and intensity of storms. Studies of the ozone hole have benefited from IPY research as well, with new connections identified between the ozone concentrations above the Antarctic and wind and storm conditions over the Southern Ocean. This information will improve predictions of climate and ozone depletion.
An IPY celebration was held on 25 February at WMO headquarters to mark the release of the WMO/ICSU Joint Committee statement The State of Polar Research (see “Recently issued”, this page). It consisted of a press conference in the morning and a ceremony in the afternoon, which was attended by about 300 participants, including IPY scientists, guests and WMO staff.
Welcome addresses were given by the Secretary-General of WMO and the President of ICSU. These were followed by presentations by the Director of the IPY International Programme Office and the two Co-Chairs of the IPY Joint Committee. A message was also delivered on behalf of HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.
Students from Canada performed traditional Inuit songs. The ceremony concluded with the premiere of the film Beyond the Poles.
ICSU and WMO have awarded over 900 IPY participants with certificates of appreciation.
World Meteorological Day this year was celebrated around the theme: “Weather, climate and the air we breathe”, highlighting the work of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services in air-quality data, research and forecasts.
A celebration was held at WMO headquarters. After a welcome address by the Secretary-General, guest speaker Gregory Carmichael, Co-Director, US Center for Global and Regional Environment Research, gave a presentation entitled “Globalization of air pollution”. Special guest, Maria Neira, Director, Department of Public Health and Environment, World Health Organization, spoke on the health effects of climate change.
The global average temperature for 2008 was slightly lower than that for the previous years of the 21st century, due, in part, to La Niña. The first quarter of 2008 was characterized by a La Niña event of moderate-to-strong intensity, which began in the third quarter of 2007 and prevailed through May 2008. La Niña conditions gradually weakened from their peak strength in February 2008.
In December 2008, however, unusually cold sea-surface temperatures developed in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific, with temperatures more than 0.5°C below normal. A coupling of atmospheric wind patterns with these cooler temperatures led to the recent La Niña-like conditions.
The outlook until May 2009 is for “neutral” conditions to be most likely. Forecasts for the remainder of 2009 are very uncertain at this stage; the likelihood of El Niño conditions developing is no higher than that of La Niña conditions.
Some recent global climate patterns have been impacted by the La Niña-like conditions in the tropical Pacific. These are expected to subside over the next couple of months, but a tendency for climate patterns consistent with La Niña may continue over the same period in some regions.
WMO prepares these updates in collaboration with the International Research Institute for Climate and Society by consulting climate prediction centres around the world and facilitating the development of a consensus. WMO will continue to monitor the situation in the tropical Pacific and the climate forecasting community will provide detailed interpretations of regional climate fluctuations through the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services.
WMO and the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) organized an International Workshop on Drought and Extreme Temperatures in Beijing, China, in February 2009. Participating scientists reviewed the increasing frequency and severity of droughts and extreme temperature events around the world.
One of the main recommendations to cope with increasing droughts and extreme temperatures on agriculture, rangelands and forestry was to develop a unified and standardized drought index that can be practically applied to a wide range of agricultural purposes across the world. The workshop strongly recommended that WMO make appropriate arrangements to identify the methods and marshal resources for the development of standards for agricultural drought indices in a timely manner.
Other recommendations include supporting more proactive drought planning; promoting the use of more water-efficient coping strategies such as new drought-tolerant crop varieties, water harvesting, micro-irrigation techniques and agro- forestry; and using groundwater more efficiently for agriculture.
Implementing these coping strategies will require better use of weather and climate information and early warming systems to assist in determining where and when to use the strategies.
The workshop also emphasized the need to strengthen national capacities for collecting and processing data and information on natural disasters such as drought; to promote the use of crop insurance products; and to use crop varieties appropriately in consideration of climate variability and change. It will be increasingly important to take into account the impact of climate change on future drought intensity and duration, especially in countries where drought currently has low impacts, and also to improve the linkage between farmers and agricultural extension services. Finally, the workshop underlined the need to develop precision models of impacts of future climate change on agricultural systems.
WMO, with CMA and other partners, has been developing tools to monitor and predict the effects of drought and heatwaves on agriculture and forestry. The aim is to increase awareness of the agriculture and forestry communities of these extreme climatic hazards. World Climate Conference-3, which is being held from 31 August to 4 September 2009 in Geneva, Switzerland, will address these needs as well, through presentations on the connections between climate variability and change and agriculture.
The World Day to Combat Desertification is observed every year on 17 June. This year, the theme is “Conserving land and water—securing our common future”.
Desertification, land degradation and drought threaten human security by depriving people of their means of life by taking away food, access to water, the means for economic activities and even their homes. In worst-case scenarios, they undermine national and regional security, force people to leave their homes and trigger conflicts.
WMO and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) have established a Drought Management Centre for South-eastern Europe in Slovenia and are working towards the establishment of a similar centre in Central Asia.
WMO has always supported the activities of UNCCD. The two organizations co-sponsored the International Workshop on Climate and Land Degradation held in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania, in December 2006 and produced the proceedings.
The year 2008 ranked as one of the warmest years on record, according to the analyses made by leading climate centres under the auspices of WMO.
The global average temperature in 2008 was slightly lower than for the previous years of the 21st century, owing in part to the moderate-to-strong La Niña that developed in the latter half of 2007 (see page 3). The global mean temperature anomaly in January 2008 (+0.05ºC) was the lowest recorded since February 1994 (–0.09ºC ).
Since the beginning of the 20th century, the global average surface temperature has risen by 0.74°C, although this increase has not been continuous. The linear warming trend over the past 50 years (0.13°C per decade) is nearly twice that for the past 100 years.
The WMO statement on the status of the global climate in 2008 (WMO-No. 1039) has been published in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish (a provisional statement was issued in December 2008). See “WMO statement on the status of the global climate in 2008” in this issue.
It is available in pdf via the WMO Showcase.
WMO co-sponsored the International Conference on the Challenges and Opportunities in Agrometeorology in New Delhi, India, in February 2009, which was followed by a meeting of WMO experts to discuss support systems for agrometeorological services.
The experts used the input from the international conference to inform their own discussions and made a number of recommendations. National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) should use about 5 per cent of their budget to interact with users and should be proactive in becoming involved with existing agricultural forums such as farmer field days in order to further improve user interactions.
It was recommended that NMHSs organize training workshops on agrometeorological tools, based on specific satellite tools and products and improve the status of traditional agrometeorological service products which highlight local characteristics. They should also develop methodologies for the application of data from meteorological satellites to obtain parameters characterizing agricultural crop development during the vegetation period across different geographical zones. NMHSs should apply daily meteorological data in agrometeorological models developed to forecast the yield of certain agricultural crops at the local and national levels.
The 15th session of the Commission for Agricultural Meteorology (CAgM) will be held from 15 to 23 July 2010 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. This is the first time that a CAgM session will have been held in South America.
Agrometeorology has greatly contributed to the quantity and quality of Brazilian agriculture in recent decades and the CAgM session will provide an excellent opportunity for Brazil to share its experiences with the rest of the world.
Contact: MeteoWorld Editor - WMO ©2008 Geneva, Switzerland