December 2008

WMO activities

Managing the risks and opportunities of climate variability and change / Climate predictions and seasonal forecasts / Mitigating the impacts of natural hazards / Improving early warning systems and emergency procedures / The state of the ozone layer in 2008 / WMO and international standards


Managing the risks and opportunities of climate variability and change

girlClimate provides societies with opportunities, as well as risks. Over the decades, WMO has enhanced capacities in meteorology, hydrology and related geosciences to provide services that enable humankind to cope with climate conditions.

The systems and standards developed by WMO facilitate the gathering, processing and sharing of climate observations to provide services for protecting life and property and to spur socio-economic development. Through the first and second world climate conferences, WMO and partners rallied the world to address climate issues related to the science and policies needed to better understand and mitigate the effects of climate change.

The First Climate Conference (1979) helped establish institutions such as the WMO World Climate Programme; the World Climate Research Programme (co-sponsored by WMO, the International Council for Science and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scien­tific and Cultural Organization) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (co-sponsored by WMO and the United Nations Environment Programme), which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

The Second World Climate Conference (1990) called for the establishment of a climate convention, adding momentum to international efforts to address climate change. This resulted in the development of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. It also led to the establishment of the Global Climate Observing System and to recommendations for future activities of the World Climate Programme.

WCC-3 is building on our resulting improved understanding of the climate system and advances in the science of climate prediction and information that can contribute to enhancing the well-being of society. It will focus on establishing services that enable decision-makers to better manage the climate opportunities and risks associated with extreme climate conditions and allow communities to improve their ability to adapt to long-term climate change.

The enormous amount of data gathered and archived by WMO, together with its global data-processing and telecommunication systems, is a resource that can help significantly to develop climate services and products. These include maps of possible risks and opportunities, return periods for identified risks and opportunities, renewable energy sources, urban management, disease outbreak potentials and accurate climate predictions.

Global, regional and national climate prediction centres have the skills to produce useful climate predictions and information. These skills, however, vary from region to region and country to country. The capacities of developing countries and Least Developed Countries need to be strengthened to enable them to produce accurate and useful products and services.

The needs of different societies have to be well understood and integrated in the generation of products and services. Climate monitoring and prediction must be improved and appropriate policies developed. These requirements cannot be achieved by individual countries alone. The world is served by one climate system that redistributes heat, energy and other atmospheric and oceanic constituents; worldwide cooperation is therefore indispensable.

Adequate monitoring of the climate system enables timely detection of hazardous transboundary climate systems. The world must come together to improve climate prediction and information services that will significantly contribute to achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Bali Action Plan and the Hyogo Framework Action on disaster risk reduction.

WCC-3 will establish an international framework to develop climate services which will bridge the gap between IPCC assessment reports and the services required to adapt to climate variability and change at regional and sectoral levels.

WCC-3 is also expected to provide direction to address climate-related risks, such as droughts, floods, cold and heatwaves, famine and outbreaks of certain diseases, which, as well as threatening lives, affect health and the availability of essential needs such as food, water and energy.

From 31 August to 4 September 2009, WMO will hold, in Geneva, together with partner organizations, World Climate Conference-3 (WCC-3), under the overall theme “Climate prediction and information for decision-making” (see also next two items). A dedicated Website for the Conference has been created on the WMO homepage.

WMO World Climate Programme

See also the article World Climate Conference-3 in this issue.

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Climate predictions and seasonal forecasts

The concept of Regional Climate Outlook Forums (RCOFs) was conceived, developed and supported under WMO’s Climate Information and Prediction Services project in partnership with National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs), regional climate institutions and other agencies. These forums have now completed 10years of successful operation in various parts of Africa and South America. Concerted efforts are being made to extend the concept to other regions.

Climate information, including predictions/outlooks, can be of substantial benefit to many climate-sensitive sectors. WMO has helped establish RCOFs across the world with the responsibility to produce and disseminate a regional assessment (using a predominantly consensus-based approach) of the state of the regional climate for the upcoming season.

National and regional capacities are varied, but certainly inadequate to face the task alone. Built into the RCOF process is a regional networking of climate service pro­viders and stakeholders, including user-sector representatives. Par­tici­pating countries recognize the potential of climate prediction and seasonal forecasting as a powerful development tool to help communities and decision-makers face the challenges posed by climatic variability and change.

RCOFs bring together national, regional and international climate experts, on an operational footing, to produce regional climate outlooks based on input from NMHSs, regional institutions, Regional Climate Centres and Global Producing Centres of long-range forecasts and other climate prediction centres.

women   Climate information, including predictions and outlooks, can be of substantial benefit to many climate-sensitive sectors, including water management for domestic and agricultural use.

Through interaction with sectoral users, extension agencies and policy-makers, RCOFs assess the likely implications of the outlooks on the most pertinent socio-economic sectors in the given region and explore ways to make use of these outlooks.

RCOFs also review impediments to the use of climate information, experiences and successful lessons regarding applications of past RCOF products, and enhance sector-specific applications. These RCOFs then lead to national forums to develop detailed national-scale climate outlooks and risk information, including warnings for communication to decision-makers and the public at large.

RCOFs have provided lessons and experiences that are critical for climate adaptation. The concept has the potential to be extended to develop our capacity to adapt to climate change. Regional assessments of observed and pro­jected climate change, including the development of downscaled climate-change scenario products for impact assessments, can be included in the product portfolio of RCOFs.


This potential has already been recognized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Subsidiary Body on Science and Technology Advice, and constitutes a key element of WMO’s contribution to the Nairobi Work Programme on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change.

Based on the needs of specific sectors, specialized, sector-oriented outlook forums, such as Malaria Outlook Forums, are being held in conjunction with RCOFs in Africa. Based on seasonal temperature and rainfall predictions, river runoffs for the season are predicted in some RCOFs. This information is useful for water managers and helps them in making decisions on water allocations. Regional agriculture and food security outlooks are now regularly produced, based on the climate outlooks in some regions. This information is important in planning food-grain reserves and distribution.

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Mitigating the impacts of natural hazards

While natural hazards cannot be avoided, timely, accurate and high-quality scientific prediction of hydro-climate extremes helps societies to prepare for, and mitigate, disasters. Early warnings and forecasts with adequate lead time are a key component in increasing human safety and reducing socio-economic and environmental impacts of natural hazards.

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The information and services provided by National Meteorological and Hydrological Services are vital for preventing and mitigating the impacts of natural hazards and need to be strengthened in a sustainable way.

WMO organized a conference in Chisinau, Republic of Moldova, in October 2008, which enabled European countries to discuss for the first time at the regional level reduction of the impacts of natural hazards through strengthened collaboration among NMHSs and disaster risk management institutions. The objective was to foster specific ways of building stronger and sustainable scientific and technical capacities for disaster risk reduction in the region.

According to an assessment of hydrometeorological services, which was released at the conference, the total investment required for strengthening the NMHSs of seven countries in south-eastern Europe (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Republic of Moldova and Serbia) could be reduced by up to one-third through regional cooperation over the next five years.

The Republic of Moldova, which hosted a technical conference on the role of NMHSs in the prevention and mitigation of the impacts of natural hazards, co-sponsored by WMO, in October 2008, had itself suffered catastrophic flooding in the preceding August (see the October 2008 issue of MeteoWorld).


The report points out that, in order to optimize adaptation to climate variability and change, it is necessary to integrate risk and uncertainty in decision-support tools. NMHS scientists can effectively provide regional and local data on climate change by interpreting model results for stakeholders and by working across disciplines.

The report sets out compelling reasons for government and private-sector efforts to strengthen NMHSs and illustrates why such efforts must not be seen merely as a national expenditure, but rather as an investment in national and regional development.

The outcomes of the meeting will contribute to international deliberations on disaster risk reduction, notably during World Climate Conference-3 to be held in Geneva, Switzerland, from 31August to 4 September 2009 (see also first item in this issue).

WMO Technical Cooperation Programme

WMO Regional Programme

WMO Disaster Risk Reduction Programme

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warning signImproving early warning systems and emergency procedures

Every year, disasters cause significant impacts around the globe. Disasters caused by meteorological, hydrological and climate-related hazards, such as floods, tropical cyclones, droughts and heatwaves, are the most frequent and extensive.

Statistics from the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters reveal that, during the period 1980-2007, nearly 8500 disasters caused by natural hazards worldwide killed some 2million people and resulted in damage amounting to US$ 1500billion. Over the past 50years, the number of disasters and their associated economic losses has increased nearly 10- and 50-fold, respectively.

Notwithstanding, the asso­ciated loss of life has decreased 10-fold. This reduction is a result of the development of effective disaster risk reduction policies and strategies, particularly that of linking early warning systems to emergency preparedness and planning at national to local levels.
Over the years, WMO has promoted the importance of prevention and preparedness measures, including risk assess­ment, early warning systems and sectoral planning.

The WMO Global Data-processing and Forecasting System, for example, involves three World Meteorological Centres and 40 Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres, as well as regional climate and drought monitoring centres. These centres ensure cooperation at global, regional and national levels to process data and routinely provide countries with analyses and meteorological forecasts which support the early warning capacities of the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services.


An example is the global tropical cyclone early warning system of WMO. It comprises a coordinated observing network for collecting and sharing data, six Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres providing tropical cyclone analyses, forecasts and alerts and five regional committees, which ensure ongoing improvements in tropical cyclone forecasting and operational coordination. WMO is working on an integrated approach to ensure utilization of this coordinated network in support of national warning systems for a wide range of hazards, including floods, droughts, sand- and duststorms, severe storms, storm surges and other marine-related hazards.

While the benefits of early warning systems have been clearly demonstrated, national policies in many countries continue to stress post-disaster response and relief operations. Investments in systematic and sustainable early warning systems and emergency preparedness programmes at national to community levels are still insufficient.

The concept of early warning systems has received significant international attention over the past few years. Results of the Global Survey of Early Warning Systems, together with national and regional capacity assessment surveys conducted by WMO, indicate that, in many countries, there is a need to develop early warning systems as an integral part of national disaster risk reduction strategies.

Through an inte­grated planning approach with partner agencies, WMO has been initiating, since 2007, national demonstration and pilot projects to develop, analyse and document good practices in early warning systems. Through the collective analysis of lessons learned from demonstration and pilot projects, the goal is to develop the first set of comprehensive guidelines on governance, organizational coordination and operational aspects of early warning systems.

WMO World Weather Research Programme

WMO Disaster Risk Reduction Programme

WMO Tropical Cyclone Programme

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The state of the ozone layer in 2008

Ozone depletion started relatively late in the Antarctic vortex of 2008. The vortex was rather concentric (i.e. not subject to much sunshine until late August) and centred over the South Pole. At the end of August, ozone depletion set in and the size and depth of the ozone hole increased rapidly.

The area of the ozone hole reached a maximum of 27 million km2 on 12 September. After 17 September, the area started to decline and, by 11 October, it was down to some 23 million km2. In comparison, the maximum area reached in 2007 was around 25 million km2 and, in the record year of 2006, was more than 29 million km2.

The Antarctic ozone hole in September 2000 was the largest ever.    

During August and the first half of September, the ozone mass deficit was less than all earlier years since 1999, except 2002 and 2004. In mid-September, it passed the values of 2007 and, on 22 September, it reached 27 megatonnes (Mt), which was nearly the same as the 2007 maximum. Thereafter, the ozone deficit continued to increase and reached a maximum for 2008 with 35 Mt on 3 October. Since 1999, only the years 2000, 2003 and 2006 experienced more ozone deficit than 2008. After 3 October, the ozone deficit decreased rapidly and, by 13 October, was around 25 Mt.

The variation in the severity of the Antarctic ozone hole will be governed over the next few years by interannual changes in meteorology rather than changes in ozone-depleting substances, whose decline is quite slow (some 1 per cent/year), after reaching a peak around 2000.

WMO coordinates the global ozone observing network. The Global Atmosphere Watch ozone observing system comprises more than 100 stations worldwide that measure total column ozone and ozone profiles in the troposphere and stratosphere. It provides important data for the assessment of the state of the ozone layer and the data are used in the quadrennial WMO/UNEP Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion. Data from the Antarctic are delivered in near-real-time and used in the WMO Antarctic Ozone Bulletins.

WMO Press Release No. 829

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WMO and international standards

On 16 September 2008, WMO and the International Organi­zation for Standardization (ISO) signed an agreement to increase cooperation in the development of international standards related to meteorological and hydrological data, products and services. ISO officially recognized WMO as an international standardization body in December 2007.

The working arrangements between WMO and ISO aim to strengthen the development of international standards and to avoid duplication of work on standards related to meteorological, climatological, hydrological, marine and related environmental data, products and services.

Procedures are now in place for the accelerated adoption by ISO of WMO documents as ISO standards. WMO and ISO will develop, approve and publish common standards based on WMO technical regulations, manuals and guides.

WMO started work at the end of October to chart the way for the secretariat to align the technical regulations for different technical commissions to ISO.

At the same time, work started on a quality management system pilot project at the Tanzania Meteorological Agency, which is scheduled to start at the end of this year and should prepare the Agency for certification according to ISO 9001-2000 by the middle of next year.

The documentation developed during this process will be shared with other developing countries with a view to facilitating and expediting implementation of their own quality-management systems.

The milestones attained by the project will be publicized on the Website of the WMO Commission for Aeronautical Meteorology for the benefit of other NMSs wishing to follow the example, using documentation, software and templates developed under the project.

WMO Aeronautical Meteorology Programme


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