December 2010

Programme updates and regional round-up

Researchers and re-insurers work toward better risk assessments / Essential Climate Variables updated for Global Climate Observing System / Surface temperature datasets for the 21st century / Meteorologists and farmers address food production / Eastern Africa links weather improved forecasts for agriculture / WMO African Members set priorities / WMO South America meeting calls for better weather and climate services / WMO Members assist Haiti’s hurricane warning system / First Asia-Pacific satellite users conference / More data and products from European centre / Paris hosts International Weather Forum / Portuguese-speaking countries launch climate centre


Researchers and re-insurers work toward better risk assessments

Recent record-breaking floods in Pakistan, India and China, as well as the heat waves and wildfires in the Russian Federation highlight the need for better risk assessments to help decision-makers and the public.

The World Climate Research Programme held a workshop at UNESCO in Paris, France in September to discuss risk assessment, from heatwaves to hurricanes. Over 130 people from 32 countries attended, from fields as diverse as meteorology, statistics and re-insurance.

Some presentations pointed to the likelihood that the southeast Asian floods and the Russian drought this summer were linked, with higher atmospheric temperatures linked to heavy monsoon rains. The case was made that the rainfall pattern was related to the rapidly developing La Niña, while the previous El Niño had left behind abnormally high sea surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean around northern Indonesia, providing extra moisture to monsoon rains. Thus the persistent high temperatures over the Russian Federation were probably more intense and longer lasting owing to global warming.

While these connections are very likely, they are hard to prove as models do not reproduce monsoon rains very well, and blocking is poorly simulated. A better understanding of basic processes causing extremes, and better ability to model are thus critical to better risk assessment.

A white paper is being prepared to develop detailed recommendations for action.

See the WCRP news pages.


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Essential Climate Variables updated for Global Climate Observing System

For governments to understand and manage their response to climate change, they need sustained global observations of Essential Climate Variables in the atmosphere, on land, in the oceans and in space. To respond to this need, outlined in articles 4 and 5 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), WMO co-sponsors the Global Climate Observing System.

The updated five-year implementation plan for priority-setting and planning of the Global Climate Observing System has been published and will be considered at the next meeting of the UNFCCC Subsidary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, held in conjunction with COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico.

50 essential climate variables

The updated implementation plan takes into account the current status of observing systems for climate, recent progress in science and technology, the increased focus on adaptation, enhanced efforts to optimize mitigation measures, and the need for improved climate change projections. The list now has 50 Essential Climate Variables including soil moisture, soil carbon, and ocean oxygen content, and recognizes the role of chemical precursors in forming ozone and aerosols, in addition to other meteorological, oceanographic and biogeophysical variables.

The cost for implementing the plan is estimated at US$ 2.5 billion yearly, over and above costs for existing networks, systems, and activities in support of climate. The cost estimates include satellite-related and open ocean-related costs, as well as network enhancements in both developing and developed countries. The implementation plan underwent a two-month, web-based review by the scientific community and all sponsors of the Global Climate Observing System.

See the full Implementation Plan.


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Surface temperature datasets for the 21st century

In the 21st century, decision makers require transparent, sound information about our changing climate. Decision-makers need to have confidence in observational datasets that are underpinning the generation of climate products and the quality of climate services.

At very considerable effort and on limited budgets, climate scientists and national meteorological services have produced pioneering climate datasets of surface air temperature and other variables to understand climate change and its underlying causes.

To address this challenge, the “Creating surface temperature datasets to meet 21st century challenges” initiative kicked off in September 2010 with a workshop hosted by the UK Met Office Hadley Centre, with 80 climatologists, meteo­rologists, statisticians, software experts, network and archive operators from all WMO Regions.

Discussions revolved around integrating surface air temperature and related records into a unified data repository; a global databank; using that databank to create multiple independent temperature estimates; consistent benchmarking; and user tools and support.

The initiative will build on existing programmes. Its key aims are to:

  • Agree on data rescue, analysis and verification activities;
  • Recommend measures for dataset transparency and traceability;
  • Engender broad support from the expert community, including those outside the climate community, such as experts in meteorology and statistics;
  • Ensure that databank contents are useable by a broad range of stakeholders, and accessible to all WMO Members and interested parties;
  • Develop tools and methods to aid users, with developing countries as a priority.

The workshop was sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization, the World Climate Research Programme, the Global Climate Observing System, the UK Royal Meteorological Society, the UK Met Office, the University of Exeter, the US National Climatic Data Center and the US Office of the Global Climate Observing System.

Broad participation is critical for this initiative to succeed. Ad-hoc teams, with participation from WMO Members and the WMO Secretariat, are organized along the following lines:

  • Openness and transparency in data quality and provenance;
  • Existing global datasets and products;
  • Spatial interpolation;
  • Benchmarking and assessment;
  • Creation of products, tools, and visualization material;
  • Broad engagement of WMO Members, scientists, and the public;
  • Governance.

To contribute, contact:

mail ororg or

More on progress:

More on the workshop


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Meteorologists and farmers address food production

© FAO/Giulio Napolitano
  WMO is working on food security by helping to strengthen agricultural production.

Meteorologists and farmers from different regions of the world met in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in July to address weather and climate challenges related to agriculture and food production. They developed plans for the next few years to address “the livelihood crisis of the 450 million smallholder farmers around the world.”

An international workshop examined how to help small farmers, with 134 participants from 57 countries. They recommended: more interaction between national weather, water and climate services and the farming communities; easy-to-understand seasonal forecasts for farming community; and a focus on agrometeorological products and services that sustain agriculture, and not just increase crop production.

A farmers’ forum during the workshop expressed the need for reliable daily weather forecasts for seven days; a three-month seasonal climate forecast; and simple, versatile decision-support software.

The conclusions were then discussed at the 15th Session of the WMO Commission for Agricultural Meteorology, where some 120 representatives from 62 countries and international organizations set priorities for the next four years. These included: enhanced services for the agricultural, livestock, forestry and fisheries communities and partner agencies; knowledge-sharing between forecasters, scientists and agricultural decision-makers; agrometeorological training at regional, national and local levels; and resource-sharing among countries and international or regional organizations, to build synergies and to support human health and economic development.

To address these priorities, the Commission appointed 64 experts from 41 countries to various Expert Terms of the Commission.

The Commission expressed strong support for the implementation of the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) for the agricultural sector in order to protect the livelihoods of farmers, and to enhance food security. The Commission elected Dr Byong Lee of the Republic of Korea as President and Dr Federica Rossi of Italy as Vice-President.

See more about the Session



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Eastern Africa: improved forecasts for agriculture

  tea pluckers in tanzania
© UN Photo/B Wolff
  Timely weather and climate information is essential for agriculture. Above a tea plantation in the United Republic of Tanzania.

Eastern Africa is developing a new regional project for severe weather forecasting, which focuses on linking the meteorological and agricultural communities in order to get more targeted forecasts and warnings to rural communities. Six eastern African countries are involved: Kenya, United Republic of United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia, and Rwanda.

The goal is faster, more reliable forecasting and warning services for national meteorological services, which share information with national disaster management bodies, the media and the general public.

The eastern Africa project proposes something new: it engages the agriculture sector so it benefits from improved forecasting and warning services, focused on floods, dry spells, damaging wind and hail and large waves along the coasts of the Indian Ocean and major lakes in the region.

The strategy builds on existing linkages that national meteorological services in the region have with agriculture communities. Agro-meteorologists, for example, are already linked to farming and fisheries. The goals are twofold: to improve hazard warnings for crops, livestock, farming and fisheries, and to work with agricultural networks to get severe weather warnings to rural communities.

Representatives at the workshop, including senior forecasters and agro-meteorologists from National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and the agriculture ministry, agreed this approach could be very effective. Funding so far has included WMO, in partnership with the World Bank.

As part of the new project, training on severe weather forecasting and warning services was held in Dar Es Salaam, the United Republic of Tanzania, in October. Weather forecasters from eastern African countries were trained to use the latest numerical weather prediction guidance products, such as those from ensemble prediction systems, and satellite-based METEOSAT products focused on weather associated with intense thunderstorms.

Disaster management and agriculture counterparts – primary users of forecasts and warning services – joined the second week of the training. Lecturers were from meteoro­logical offices of the UK, Canada, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Kenya, India and Hong Kong, China.

The initiative is part of the WMO Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project, which aims to improve severe weather forecasting in countries where sophisticated numerical weather prediction products are not used, or are used poorly; and to deliver better warnings.


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WMO African Members set priorities

WMO’s Regional Association for Africa, at its 15th session, discussed the capacity of African National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and regional climate centres to provide climate predictions and assessments – a key to promoting adaptation to climate variability and change.

Multi-hazard warning systems and disaster risk reduction programmes were high on the agenda, as well as preservation of water resources, at risk in a changing climate.

The meeting, which took place in early November in Marrakesh, Morocco, brought together delegates of 37 national meteorological services of Africa.

See press release



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WMO South America meeting calls for better weather and climate services 

Meteorologists in South America pledged to improve forecasting and warning capabilities, strengthen observations and telecommunications networks, establish regional climate centres and implement disaster risk management strategies at the week-long meeting of the World Meteorological Organization’s South American Regional Association in Bogota, Colombia.

Delegates from 13 South American countries agreed on the need for coordination as well as for more accurate climate products to better understand and cope with climate variability and climate change.


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WMO Members assist Haiti’s hurricane warning system

The new website of Haiti’s National Meteorological Centre (CNM) has disseminated regular authoritative information and warnings about tropical storms.

This is thanks to support from WMO Members including Canada, Cuba, Dominican Republic, France, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, who joined forces to re-establish and reinforce operational meteorological services destroyed by the January earthquake.

Daily operations have been restored and improved. Buildings, furniture, power, computers and Internet access are in place, along with a satellite ground station and a national network of seven automated weather stations. Training is underway, with a visiting forecasters programme in Haiti, and fellowships for studies abroad, as well as on-the-job training.

To improve accuracy and lead time, particularly for flash floods, there are now specialized forecasting models, maps, a new guide, and stronger cooperation with neighbouring countries to standardize rain measurements. A longer-term proposal has been made to build institutional capacity, so that Haitian weather and water services are linked to other ministries, to legal frameworks and to national development planning.

Over 90 per cent of disasters in Haiti are linked to natural hazards: tropical cyclones and related storm surges, river and flash floods, drought, thunderstorms or lightning, landslides or mudslides. These have been made worse by massive deforestation and losses in 2008 from four major hurricanes, Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike.

Improved weather forecasts and early warnings will help national authorities, humanitarian and development agencies and Haitian citizens with emergency contingency planning and recovery. Longer-term capacity is also essential to help Haiti reverse the spiral that blocks development due to recurrent disasters.

new Haiti Website
Haiti’s new Website provides breaking news on tropical storms.

See also: WMO Bulletin article (59(2)) Climate services can reverse downward spiral


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First Asia-Pacific satellite users conference

An opportunity for high quality scientific exchange among satellite operators, users and scientists was the focus of the first Asia-Oceania Meteorological Satellite Users’ Conference, held in Beijing, China in early November.

Over 150 participants discussed current and planned satellite observational capabilities for the region, science activities, applications, and education and training. Participants focused on satellite environmental remote sensing for services ranging in scale from nowcasting (predictions that pinpoint forecasts for a precise time and area, such as mid-afternoon in a city) to monitoring climate change.

Satellite data, noted the participants, is fundamental for improvements in numerical weather prediction. Developing countries pointed out the value of satellite products in their daily forecasting and disaster mitigation activities. Satellite operators appreciated the feedback from users, the opportunity for regional coordination in data and product exchange, and the sharing of improvements for use of satellite data.

The group also examined the challenges of characterizing climate variability and change for satellite-based products.

Hosted by the China Meteorological Administration, the conference was co-sponsored by the Japan Meteorological Agency, the Korea Meteorological Administration, the Group on Earth Observations and WMO.

The Japanese Meteorological Agency will host the 2nd Asia-Oceania conference in late 2011.


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More data and products from European centre

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts has increased resolution of its data set freely available to all WMO Members to 0.5 degree latitude/longitude grids, which considerably enhances its value and usefulness.

The Centre has also extended access to a full range of its products to the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services under a reduced maximum charge licence for non-commercial applications. This new service offers new benefits for WMO Members in a position to explore and utilize the full range of the Centre’s high-quality products.


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Paris hosts International Weather Forum


Weather presenters from around the world exchanged experiences this October in Paris, France on the occasion of the 7th International Weather Forum. The weather presenters also spoke to Chinese meteorologists live, in Shanghai, China, through a videoconference link to the MeteoWorld Pavilion at World Expo 2010.

Organized by the French Meteorological Society and co-sponsored by WMO, this year’s International Weather Forum focused on floods.

The forum takes place annually for the public, the media and scientists to debate issues related to weather, climate change and the impact on the environment. Over 15 000 visitors attended the event, which had debates, games and workshops for the public organized around five themes: weather-climate, environment, energy, space and water.



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Portuguese-speaking countries launch climate centre

Portuguese-speaking WMO Members have agreed to launch a specialized climate centre. The International Centre for Climate Research and Applications for Portuguese-speaking Countries will be located in Cape Verde, which would develop and demonstrate the mandatory capabilities for the establishment of a Regional Climate Centre in Africa.

The National Meteorological and Hydrological Service (NMHS) of Cape Verde will serve as the central node, and NMHSs and universities from other countries will collaborate to develop specific climate products and applications.

The agreement was an outcome of the International Workshop on Climate and Natural Resources in Portuguese-speaking countries, which took place in Braganca, Portugal in November. The Agency of Portuguese-Speaking Countries in the Area of Climate and Related Environmental Issues facilitated the development of the initiative.


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