August 2009

WMO activities

Towards a Global Framework for Climate Services / Floods: helping the managers / Detecting nuclear explosions / Improving weather monitoring in Africa / Tanzania Meteorological Agency wins award / Communicating weather and climate information to farmersSevere Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project


Towards a Global Framework for Climate Services

The climate challenge calls for a two-pronged approach: mitigation and adaptation. Intensive negotiations are ongoing to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and mitigate climate change. Meanwhile, the international community is developing tools for adapting to climate variability and change.  World Climate Conference‑3 (WCC-3), to be held from 31 August to 4 September 2009 in Geneva, Switzerland, aims at initiating a Global Framework for Climate Services to boost climate adaptation.

image   World Climate Conference-3 (31 August-4 September 2009): watch it unfold at

The Framework will respond to the pressing need for society to have access to user-friendly climate predictions and information to make decisions and to better manage climate-related risks.  It will integrate climate observations, research, assessments and predictions in order to generate information and services required for factoring climate variability and change into socio-economic decision-making.

The Conference will promote the exchange of practical solutions to address the impacts of climate now and will consider a blueprint for the Global Framework for Climate Services. Currently under consultation by stakeholders at the international and national levels, the Framework is intended to bridge the gap between climate information providers and users.

The Global Framework would consist of four main components: a renewed commitment to climate observations and the free and unrestricted exchange of basic data; strengthened focus on climate modelling and prediction research; a new Climate Services Information System; and a new Climate Services Application Programme.

Through these components, the Framework aims to build capacity in developing countries and to support the application of climate services for climate-resilient development. The major goal is to develop an effective interface between the providers and users of climate services.

Such climate services will provide decision-makers in key socio-economic sectors—water, agriculture, fisheries, health, forestry, transport, tourism, energy, disaster risk management—with the information they need to make decisions in the face of climate variability and change. In doing so, the Framework will provide widespread social, economic and environmental benefits.

The focus on climate services builds on a strong existing foundation of climate observations, monitoring and research to apply existing scientific capabilities to rising challenges for the global society.

WCC-3 will bring together high-level policy-makers, scientists, business leaders and decision-makers. The Expert Segment (31 August-2 September) will engage multidisciplinary scientists and experts the world over in discussions on the current needs and capabilities for climate services. The High-Level Segment (3-4 September) will attract Heads of State and Government, ministers and other senior policy-makers. It will culminate in the adoption of a declaration, which is expected to endorse the Global Framework for Climate Services.

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Floods: helping the managers

WMO and multi­disciplinary partner institutions have joined to establish the HelpDesk for Integrated Flood Management at WMO. The IFM HelpDesk will provide demand-driven guidance to all countries working on integrated flood management policy, strategy and development.

Growing demographic pressure in flood-prone areas, combined with increasing climate variability, climate change and often inadequate natural resource management, is increasing the challenge to address floods in a sustainable manner. While floodwaters are an essential water resource in many countries and floodplains hold many benefits for society, they can be also the cause of huge losses of lives, livelihoods and property and thus can be a hindrance to socio-economic development.

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WMO therefore promotes an integrated approach to flood management in order to balance floodplain development opportunities and flood risk. An important aspect of integrated flood management strategy is coordinating the needs of different stakeholders. For example, in Kenya, flood management for the Lake Victoria Basin must simultaneously address the problems of the poor floodplain dwellers and the future development of agriculturally fertile land that is prone to frequent flooding. This requires that each sector of the economy takes a role in the ways floods are managed, jointly with all national ministries, agencies and the affected provinces and communities. To that end, the Government of Kenya has been working towards a National Flood Management Strategy through a WMO pilot project. A similar project has been undertaken for Zambia’s KafueBasin.

Integrated flood management has a high return on investment. For example, when a large flood occurred along the Engelberger Aa, a mountain river flowing into Lake Lucerne in Switzerland, an integrated approach was instrumental in balancing the beneficial use of the floodplain and the damage potential. From an overall investment of about 30 million Swiss francs, an estimated 160 million Swiss francs worth of damage was prevented during the floods of 2005. The system is based on a mix of river engineering measures, flood hazard zoning, land use regulation and ecological upgrading of the river, as well as emergency planning measures at cantonal and municipal levels.

The IFM HelpDesk is not a mechanism for responding to flood emergencies. It seeks to find pragmatic solutions that bridge the gap between international policy consensus and management challenges. The IFM HelpDesk is designed for use by stakeholders in the fields of water resources management, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. They include national, provincial and local agencies, National Meteorological and Hydrological Services, river basin organizations, non-governmental organizations, universities, community-based organizations and other flood management practitioners and planners. Training workshops for both water resource professionals and policy-makers already have taken place in Bolivia, Peru, Indonesia and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

image   Floods are the most frequent natural disaster of hydrometeorological origin.Communities in developing countries are the most vulnerable.

The newly established domain provides the central access point where a range of services can be requested and various tools, capacity-building and learning materials retrieved. A virtual discussion forum allows flood management practitioners to exchange views and experiences and to access tools from a flood management reference centre.

WMO Hydrology and Water Resources Programme

IFM HelpDesk

Flood management

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Detecting nuclear explosions


The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization’s International Scientific Studies initiative (CTBTO–ISS) assesses the scientific and technical capability and readiness of the Treaty’s verification regime to detect nuclear explosions worldwide.

WMO is responsible for the topic of atmospheric transport and dispersion modelling (ATM), among eight topic areas.  The initiative also addresses how the verification regime has benefited from scientific and technical developments since the Treaty opened for signature in 1996.

At a major conference in Vienna, Austria, in June 2009, results from the cooperation with WMO were highlighted. More than 15 scientific presenters on ATM-related studies from many institutions around the world were drawn to the conference, and contributed to the scientific panel discussions on atmospheric and underground explosions. The more than 500 participants included dignitaries, leading scientists, representatives of governments and other interested parties and the media. 

The ATM system for Treaty verification is used mainly to “backtrack” the three-dimensional travel paths of radionuclides from where they are detected by one of the radionuclide stations belonging to the CTBTO’s international monitoring system, to estimate the area where they most likely have originated. This technology is critically dependent on advanced numerical simulations based on outputs of numerical weather prediction models and are carried out at many NMHSs, including those of Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres (RSMCs) with activity specialization in ATM.   The operational system for joint CTBTO-WMO ATM backtracking was established in September 2008 and includes the participation of RSMCs Beijing, Exeter, Montreal, Melbourne, Obninsk, Offenbach, Tokyo, Toulouse, NMC Vienna and the CTBTO International Data Centre. 

WMO is collaborating with CTBTO in the area of atmospheric transport modelling, under a cooperative agreement established in 2003.

WMO Emergency Response Activities

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Improving weather monitoring in Africa


The Global Humanitarian Forum, Ericsson, WMO, mobile telecommunications company Zain and the Earth Institute at Columbia University have announced a major and unique public-private initiative, dubbed “Weather info for all”, to radically improve Africa’s weather monitor­ing network in the face of the growing impacts of climate change.

Climate change is estimated as being responsible for some 300 000 deaths each year and over 100 billion US dollars worth of economic losses. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for almost a quarter of these losses and is the region at the most immediate risk of droughts and floods.

Approximately 70 per cent of Africans—or close to 700 million people—rely on farming for their livelihood and over 95 per cent of Africa’s agriculture is rainfed. Agricultural yields in some areas are expected to fall by 50 per cent as early as 2020. Changing weather patterns due to climate change could render obsolete traditional agriculture knowledge, creating a great need for meteorological information.

Africa has a network eight times below the WMO minimum recommended standard, and less than 200 automatic weather stations that meet WMO observation requirements, compared to several thousand each in Europe, North America and parts of Asia. The initiative aims to deploy 5 000 automatic weather stations at new and existing mobile network sites throughout the continent, brining information which is crucial to saving lives increasing economic opportunity to tens of millions of people.

Mobile networks provide the necessary connectivity, power and security to sustain the weather equipment. Mobile applications will help communicate weather information provided by National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) via mobile phones. Mobile operators will maintain the automatic weather stations and assist in the transmission of the data to NMHSs.

The initial deployment focuses on the area around Lake Victoria in Kenya, United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda. The first 19 automatic weather stations installed will double the current weather monitoring capacity of the region.

The initiative will have an impact far beyond agriculture and disaster preparedness as it also includes assistance to NMHSs in training and technical capacities. Better weather information also make possible the development of services such as microinsurance, which can be based on weather data indexes, for example, rainfall. The initiative will also increase the volume of information useful for scientists, as well as for the water, transport and energy industries.

While the weather information gap is particularly acute in Africa, the initiative could be expanded into other affected regions.

WMO Instruments and Methods of Observation Programme

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Tanzania Meteorological Agency wins award

The Tanzania Meteorological Agency was awarded a “Best managed institution certificate“ by the President’s Office on 19 June 2009 during Public Service Week in Dar es Salaam.

The criteria used were to what extent the ministry, department or agency had installed systems that would lead to improvements in service delivery, as well as sharing information with its customers. The current implementation of a quality management system in the provision of aeronautical meteorological services was recognized. This activity is sponsored by WMO.


The introduction of a quality management system led to improvement of internal and external operational and business processes, which, in turn, led to significant improvement in service delivery to internal and external customers.

The existence of a complaints handling mechanism, through questionnaires and/or scheduled meetings and giving advice to management for proper corrective action by appropriate sections, was seen as an important management tool for monitoring and evaluation.

WMO Aeronautical Meteorology Programme

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Communicating weather and climate information to farmers

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An International Workshop on the Content, Communication and Use of Weather and Climate Products and Services for Sustainable Agriculture was organized by WMO and partners in Toowoomba, Australia, in May 2009. Its goal was to improve the long-term sustainability of farming and agriculture through improving practical weather and climate information output for farmers worldwide.

The workshop adopted a set of recommendations aimed at enhancing the interactions of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) and the farming community. Among the recommendations was the identification of a focal point by farmer associations and industry organizations to interact with weather and climate service providers for product development and dissemination of agrometeorological information.

During a farmers’ round-table session at the workshop, local farmers were asked if free and accurate weather and climate forecasts were more important than free seed and fertiliser. “You can always buy seed and fertiliser, but you can’t buy the right sort of climate you need for your farming operation”, one farmer said.

Other recommendations aim at improving weather and climate information for farmers, for example by integrating climate projections into agrometeorological products, and by enhancing knowledge sharing between countries.

This workshop was held in conjunction with the meetings of Expert Teams of the WMO Commission for Agricultural Meteorology.

WMO Agricultural Meteorology Programme

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Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project

WMO contributes to improving the forecasting capabilities of NMHSs through the Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project (SWFDP). The project is underpinned by the Global Data-processing and Forecasting System through improved access to, and effective use of, outputs of numerical weather prediction systems, and in collaboration with public weather services to improve the delivery of warning services.

SWFDP represents a systematic and practical approach for building capacity and for transferring new knowledge and skills. Two demonstration projects are now in progress. The first regional project, which started in 2006, is being expanded to include all 16 countries of southern Africa and to span all seasons. A second project is in its early stage of implementation for the South Pacific Islands. It will address heavy rains, strong winds and damaging waves.

Feedback from the public has been high and positive, indicating both the success of the project and increased confidence in the issuing National Meteorological Service’s products.

SWFDP represents a systematic and practical approach for building capacity and for transferring new knowledge and skills. Two demonstration projects are now in progress.  The first regional project, which started in 2006, is being expanded to include all 16 countries of southern Africa and to span all seasons.  A second project is in its early stage of implementation for the South Pacific Islands, which will address heavy rains, strong winds and damaging waves. 

Feedback from the public has been high and positive, indicating the success of the project and increased confidence in the issuing National Meteorological Service’s products.

AppleMark   Tropical cyclone Heta brought chaos to the island of Niue in the South Pacific in 2004. The Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project will address heavy rain, strong winds and damaging waves in the South Pacific islands.

WMO Public Weather Services Programme



At each of its annual sessions, the WMO Executive Council confers awards and prizes for contributions to the advancement of meteorology, climatology and hydrology, as well as encouraging young scientists active in those fields. In 2009, the 61st session of the Council made the following awards:

The 54th IMO Prize laureate is Eugenia Kalnay (Argentina/USA), who is a leader in the field of global numerical weather prediction and analysis, including data assimilation and ensemble forecasting. She has been involved in several international WMO activities.

The Norbert Gerbier-MUMM International Award for 2010 was awarded to J.M. Sánchez, G. Scavone, V. Caselles, E. Valor, V.A. Copertino and V. Telesa (Italy) for their paper “Monitoring daily evapotranspiration at a regional scale from Landsat-TM and ETM+ data: Application to the Basilicata Region”.

The 2009 Award for Young Scientists was conferred on Alex J. Cannon (Canada) for his paper “Probabilistic multi-site precipitation downscaling by an expanded Bernoulli-gamma density network”.


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