April 20112

News in brief

17th Session of the Conference of Parties Sarapiqui Basin to Benefit from an Early Warning System
Monitoring and Evaluation of the WMO Strategic Plan Integrated Flood Management HelpDesk
Delivering Life- and Property-Saving Services Education and Training
Open Science Conference WMO Information System
Social and Economic Benefits of Weather, Climate and Water Services Special Report from IPCC
Risk Assessment and Multi-hazard Early Warning Systems in the Caribbean 2011 - The 11th Warmest Year on Record

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17th Session of the Conference of Parties

The Global Framework for Climate Services (the Framework) was the focus of WMO Deputy Secretary-General Jerry Lengoasa’s opening address to the 35th Session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) at the 17th Session of the Conference of Parties (COP 17). While the National Hydrological and Meteorological Services – over 80 national delegations attended – addressed the SBSTA on negotiations on “Research and Systematic Observation”.

The SBSTA invited WMO to report at its 37th Session on the outcome of the Extraordinary Session of the World Meteorological Congress in October 2012 with respect to the implementation of the Framework and further requested that WMO provide information on the progress in implementation at future sessions in order to keep Parties informed. The final SBSTA report recognizes the Framework as an important initiative to underpin science-based adaptation planning and practices, and to ensure that all countries are better equipped to meet the challenges of climate variability and change.

Side events

WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud chaired the UN-wide high level side event on UN system Support to Adaptation: Progress and Opportunities for Enhanced Action. The event demonstrated how the UN System is aligning its strengths to support countries in planning, designing and implementing effective strategies and measures to address climate change, with adaptation as a key area of focus.

WMO Assistant Secretary-General Elena Manaenkova, who is currently serving as Chairman of the Working Group on Climate Change of the UN system’s High- Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP), organized a UN-wide high level side event, attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Executive Heads of leading UN agencies, funds and programmes. The event included a presentation on climate knowledge and the leading role of WMO in the context of the UN-coordinated action to address climate change and highlighted the expected benefits of the implementation of the Framework.

The WMO side event “Global Framework for Climate Services – Climate Information for Sustainable Development” included panelists from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR).

Conclusion

The Conference came to a close with the 194 Parties to the Climate Change Framework Convention coming to an agreement on the Durban Platform, which builds on the Cancun Agreement adopted at COP 16 and represents a significant move forward in defining how the international community will address climate change in the coming years.

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Monitoring and Evaluation of the WMO Strategic Plan

The Sixteenth World Meteorological Congress in 2011 approved the WMO Strategic Plan for the period 2012–2015 and beyond, which will guide decision-making within the Organization, and by its constituent bodies, during that period. The approval marked the second phase in the implementation of Results-based Management, which was established by the Fifteenth World Meteorological Congress (2007). The Sixteenth Congress also decided that full implementation of the WMO Monitoring and Evaluation System would start in 2012.

A strategic plan is a valuable tool for management, but the activities and resources necessary to enable an organization to achieve its objectives must be identified for its successful implementation. In the case of WMO, the Operating Plan and the Compendium of Project Initiatives identify activities and projects, and the Results-based Budget assigns resources to implement them.

Successful implementation of the WMO Strategic Plan will also be highly dependent on the commitment of all stakeholders – Members, Secretariat, regional associations and technical commissions. Within the Secretariat, every staff member is part of an operating system and thus contributes to the successful implementation of the Strategic Plan and achievement of Expected Results. The aim of a strategic planning within WMO is to optimize the use of resources by focusing on preset priorities to achieve Expected Results; by improving operations and individual performance; and by anticipating and responding effectively to changes in the environment.

The most challenging part of implementation of a strategic plan is monitoring and evaluating progress toward achieving results. Unlike the private sector where quantitative measurements can often be made, results for the public and non-profit organizations are usually qualitative, making them difficult to monitor and report on. For WMO the challenge will be even greater as results are dependent on the WMO Secretariat activities and on those of its Members.

Despite these challenges, monitoring and evaluation remain a very useful component in the implementation of results-based management. It provides useful information for initiating improvements and for winning support. WMO provides training on monitoring and evaluation in order to enhance staff capacity. A manual and other documents on the WMO Monitoring and Evaluation System are in preparation.

The WMO Strategic Plan 2012-2015, WMO Operating Plan 2012-2015 and Compendium of Project Initiatives are available at www.wmo.int/pages/about/spla_en.html.)

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Delivering Life- and Property-Saving Services

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The WMO Public Weather Services Programme is ensuring that all National Meteorological and Hydrological Services acquire the capacities and capabilities to effectively communicate improved warnings and alerts that are easy to understand and act on in a timely manner through its Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project.

Now well established in Southern Africa, the Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project is under implementation in Eastern Africa, South East Asia, the Bay of Bengal and the South Pacific Islands regions. Its goal is to improve the forecasting and warning capabilities of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services of developing and least developed countries through the WMO Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres. Its major components are forecasting and the public weather service. The aim of the first is to improve forecast accuracy and lead-time through a Numerical Weather Prediction cascading process. The public weather service ensures that improved forecasts translate into life- and property-saving services.

Emphasis is placed on training as it is the most effective way to pass on skills. Three types of service delivery courses are offered during the week-long workshops held periodically in each region. The first is for the staff of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services who are also WMO Public Weather Service Focal Points, and often already have certain service delivery skills. The second is for Disaster Management and Civil Protection Authorities – those who respond to disasters such as the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and relevant government ministries – who need to receive warnings in order to perform effectively. The third is the media, who are indispensable for the mass communication of alerts and warnings to the public, and who need to understand forecasts, alerts and warnings in order to communicate them accurately. Areas of training include: how to work effectively with the media; how to deliver services to the disaster community; and the dissemination of warnings and forecasts using mobile technology.

Another important aspect of the Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project is the creation of synergies in order to build on existing capacities. One example of this is the collaboration with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on the Radio and Internet (RANET) communication project. The RANET project develops communication systems to inform rural and other isolated communities on weather and other environmental issues. Through RANET, alerts and warnings can be communicated to rural populations in languages and formats they readily understand.

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A lot of work remains to be done to transform the culture of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services from providers of weather forecasts to providers of services to all sectors. The Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project encourages users to report back to the service providers on the accuracy, timeliness, impacts and usefulness of the warnings, so that this information can be used to improve warning services.

The Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project has proved effective, especially in bringing developing and least developed countries closer to the desired goal of delivering improved life- and property-saving services.

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Open Science Conference

  Gashem Asrar
   

The World Climate Research Programme’s Open Science Conference, held from 24–28 October 2011, in Denver, United States of America, attracted over 1 900 participants – including about 450 early career scientists and students – from 86 countries. The theme, “Climate Research in Service to Society”, was reflected in the synthesis of research findings, presentations and discussions at the Conference. The participants assessed the current state of knowledge on climate variability and change, identified the most urgent scientific issues and research challenges, and ascertained how the World Climate Research Programme could best facilitate its research activities in partnership with other international research programmes.

The Conference identified several research challenges for the World Climate Research Programme to pursue as a matter of priority:

  1. Prediction of the Earth System by bridging the physical climate system with biogeochemistry, the social sciences and human dimensions.
  2. Clouds/aerosols/radiative feed­back and their contributions to climate sensitivity.
  3. Climate information on regional scales. This embodies seamless prediction on timescales from sub-seasonal to centennial and also seamless on spatial scales from global to regional, encompassing both high-resolution global circulation models and regional climate models.
  4. Quantification of “true” uncertainty, meaning the implementation of tools for a more accurate estimation of prediction and projection uncertainty.
  5. Decadal predictability.
  6. Polar predictability.
  7. Extreme events and why they occur.
  8. Sea-level rise on regional scales.
  9. Capacity development: Training the next generation of model developers or empowering and entraining the next generation of climate scientists in regions such as Africa.

The event focused on the role of climate research, modelling and prediction as a major pillar of the Global Framework for Climate Services (the Framework) as called for by the World Climate Conference-3. As reflected in the research challenges, a common theme to emerge from the Conference was the need for “actionable information”. The World Climate Research Programme is in a unique position to address the needs for such science-based climate information by key economic sectors and regions worldwide.

The World Climate Research Programme coordinates its activities with the WMO Commissions for Climatology and Basic Systems and with other WMO research programmes, such as the Global Atmosphere Watch Programme, the World Weather Research Programme, and other international research programmes, such as the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme and the International Human Dimensions Programme. Together, these programmes will mobilize international research networks around the world to address scientific priorities in support of the Framework.

The Conference outcomes will be published in a book that will contain the major scientific and technical papers presented during the week, together with the overall synthesis of presentations, discussions and recommendations resulting from the sessions. Position papers prepared in support of the event are available here.

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Social and Economic Benefits of Weather, Climate and Water Services

The WMO RA VI Conference on Social and Economic Benefits of Weather, Climate and Water Services was held in Lucerne, Switzerland, from 3–4 October 2011. The Conference, organized in collaboration with MétéoSwiss, aimed to promote and stimulate assessment among the RA VI Members of the benefits National Meteorological and Hydrological Services are bringing to the economy and society. It provided a forum for discussion of the outcomes of recent studies carried out by different Members and reviewing related methodologies.

The Conference also provided essential material for the development of regional guidelines for carrying out such studies along with an outline of best practices for conducting socio-economic analyses and studies.

Sixty-five participants from 34 WMO Members and several international organizations attended the event. All the Conference materials are available here.

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Risk Assessment and Multi-hazard Early Warning Systems in the Caribbean

In 2010-2011 WMO conducted a comprehensive assessment of the institutional and technical capacities and needs of the Caribbean region to support risk assessment and Multi-hazard Early Warning Systems for meteorological, hydrological and climate-related hazards.

The capacity assessment, carried out under the framework of its Disaster Risk Reduction Programme, highlighted the need for a more coordinated approach to the strengthening of institutional capacities at national and regional levels. This would require stronger cooperation with a multi-sectoral, multi-hazard, multi-level approach within the context of the priorities in disaster risk reduction and adaptation planning in the countries/territories in the region. Furthermore, through consultations engaging the directors of the Disaster Risk Management Agencies, National Meteorological and Hydrological Services, and Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres priorities for development of capacities in risk assessment and Multi-hazard Early Warning Systems were identified.

This report provides the foundation for future capacity development projects to build on existing capacities and for better coordination with other relevant development activities in the region. The next steps include the development of project proposals with the stakeholders and a fund-raising strategy to address the priorities for capacity development. A phase I project concept was identified during the consultations with two components:

Strengthening of governance and institutional frameworks for risk assessment and Multi-hazard Early Warning Systems at national level, through facilitation of national multi-stakeholder policy dialogues, and

Operational capacity development for severe weather and coastal inundation linked to storm surges and high waves and to disaster risk management and emergency preparedness through standard operating procedures, with focus on strengthening national and regional stakeholders.

The outcomes of this assessment, carried out in coordination with WMO Members, the Regional Association for North America, Central America and the Caribbean (WMO RA IV) and with support from a number of regional and international partners, has been published in the comprehensive report “Strengthening of Risk Assessment and Multi-hazard Early Warning Systems for Meteorological, Hydrological and Climate Hazards in the Caribbean”, available here.

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Sarapiqui Basin to Benefit from an Early Warning System

Costa Rica’s Sarapiqui River and several of its tributaries have a long history of recurrent overflows, generally related to the intensity of the rainy season in the Northern Caribbean. Many communities are exposed to the river flooding, which is being exacerbated by the growing population and development in flood prone areas, increasing the overall vulnerability of the communities in the affected areas.

WMO, the National Meteorological Institute (IMN), the National Commission of Risk Prevention and Emergency Response, and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) are cooperating to develop an early warning system for floods in the Sarapiqui basin, in cooperation with the local government and community-based agencies. Funded by the World Bank Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction (GFDRR), this project is the first of its kind to bring together international, national and community-based stakeholders to strengthening cooperation and coordination among key national and local agencies for improved preparedness and response.

The project, launched on 23 February 2012, has engaged close cooperation of the WMO Disaster Risk Reduction programme, the RA IV Regional Office based in San Jose, Costa Rica, and the WMO Hydrology and Water Resources Programme. More information on this project is available here.

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Integrated Flood Management HelpDesk

Settling on flood plains has enormous advantages, may it be for agriculture and access to freshwater resources or transport. However, the expansion of settlements and growing investments in flood plain could put lives and livelihoods at great risk if floods are not managed. There is much evidence, that people settled in flood-prone areas will not, and in certain circumstances cannot, abandon them thus the need for integrated flood management.

In the past, flood control was ad hoc and mono-disciplinary. Measures were not comprehensive for the management of social, economic, political and environmental issues and risks accompanying floods. There was a need for a paradigm shift from fragmented flood control practices to pro-active dynamic flood risk management, considering the entire river basin as a whole. Integrated Flood Management provides such an approach while taking into account socio-economic, political and environmental issues and processes in order to ensure both sustainable development and environmental protection.

Its aim is to balance development needs and flood risks in river basins within the overall context of Integrated Water Resources Management. It brings together stakeholders from various fields, creating a cooperative network for the optimal use of floodplains in order to maximize the net benefits derived from its use while minimizing loss of life.

Since 2009, the Associated Programme on Flood Management, hosted by WMO, has been implementing the HelpDesk for Integrated Flood Management. The HelpDesk provides guidance on flood management policy, strategy and institutional development related to flood issues to countries that want to adopt the Integrated Flood Management concept. Its activities are carried out in close partnership with the country and are tailored to their specific needs in order to facilitate implementation at the national or local levels of the Integrated Flood Management concept.

The HelpDesk provides expert information on weather, climate and water issues with the support of a decentralized and multi-disciplinary network, which includes public and private organizations, research institutions and academics. This facilitates the sharing of expertise. The HelpDesk Support Base is active both in the operation of the HelpDesk and in providing assistance under the coordination of the Associated Programme on Flood Management.

The HelpDesk offers two functions: Help Yourself and Get Help. Help Yourself is an autodidactic mode, providing quick access to relevant flood management information and guidance material through a reference centre database (where this information is collected worldwide), a series of four policy papers and twelve tools for Flood Management. The Get Help function is an interactive mode providing direct access to guidance for reform of long-term flood management policies and strategies as well as of institutional arrangements. The HelpDesk ensures sustainable capacity development within the framework of the Integrated Flood Management concept.

Assistance is mainly requested by governmental authorities, at national and local levels, river basin organizations, non-governmental organizations and bi- and multi-lateral organizations that are in charge of, or involved in, the decision-making process of flood management. Since its launch, the HelpDesk has received some 50 requests, ranging from rapid guidance on Integrated Flood Management-related issues, to capacity building workshops or development of national strategies.

Three workshops for the development of national strategies on Integrated Flood Management are planned in the coming months, following requests received through the HelpDesk. They will be held in Thailand, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and the United States of America. More information is available here.

HelpDesk logo   HelpDesk logo   HelpDesk logo
         
         

 

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Education and Training

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A range of education and training programmes will be offered to WMO Members in 2012 by WMO, Regional Training Centres and other WMO Members. These will address aspects of the five high priority areas identified during the Sixteenth World Meteorological Congress: the Global Framework for Climate Services; disaster risk reduction; aviation; WMO Information Systems/WMO Integrated Global Observing System; and capacity development.

WMO will host a Human Resource Development Work-shop, a Train-the-Trainer Workshop and either a workshop for managers of national training institutions or a curriculum development workshop for climate competencies and qualifications.

The WMO Fellowship Committee meeting in April will select candidates for fellowships in China, Germany, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

In 2011, the WMO Education and Training Office organized two Human Resource Development Workshops, one in South Africa, the other in the Philippines, and a Train-the-Trainer Workshop in Kenya.

A list of all courses and events is available here.

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WMO Information System

The Bulgarian National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology in Sofia, Bulgaria, hosted the RA VI Workshop on the Implementation of the WMO Information System from 1–3 November 2011. The workshop objectives were:

  • To raise awareness among RA VI Members of the WMO Information System functional requirements at national and regional level;
  • To outline the steps towards WMO Information System implementation by each WMO Member, related procedures and capacity development needs;
  • To promote the benefits from WMO Information System to the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services;
  • To demonstrate the existing WMO Information System, including commercial solutions; and
  • To contribute towards the development of a regional WMO Information System implementation plan.

The 45 participants agreed that synchronized and harmonized implementation would be achieved through a RA VI WMO Information System Implementation Plan containing specific actions and related timelines.

(Workshop presentations and abstracts are available here.

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Special Report from IPCC

In recent years, extreme weather and climate events have taken many lives and caused billions of dollars in economic losses. Is climate change leading to increases in the number and severity of extreme events? How do social and environmental factors interact with weather and climate events to create disasters? And what can be done to make societies more resilient to extremes? A Special Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation – assesses the scientific information on these questions. The Summary for Policymakers was released in November 2011, in Kampala, Uganda, and is available online.

 

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2011 - The 11th Warmest Year on Record

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The WMO Annual Statement on the Status of the Global Climate said that 2011 was the 11th warmest since records began in 1850. It confirmed preliminary findings that 2011 was the warmest year on record with a La Niña, which has a cooling influence. Globally-averaged temperatures in 2011 were estimated to be 0.40°C above the 1961-1990 annual average of 14°C.

“This 2011 annual assessment confirms the findings of the previous WMO annual statements that climate change is happening now and is not some distant future threat,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “The world is warming because of human activities and this is resulting in far-reaching and potentially irreversible impacts on our Earth, atmosphere and oceans.”

Precipitation extremes, many of them associated with one of the strongest La Niña events of the last 60 years, had major impacts on the world. Significant flooding occurred on all continents, whilst major droughts affected parts of east Africa and North America. Arctic sea ice extent fell to near record-low levels. Global tropical cyclone activity was below average, but the United States of America had one of its most destructive tornado seasons on record.

The annual statement for 2011 was released for World Meteorological Day 23 March. In addition, WMO also announced preliminary findings of the soon to be released Decadal Global Climate Summary, showing that climate change accelerated in 2001-2010, which was the warmest decade ever recorded on all continents of the globe.

The annual statement is available online.

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