February 2010

WMO activities


WMO at the United Nations Climate Change Conference / Preparing for the rainy and hurricane seasons in Haiti / Decision on systematic climate observations at COP 15 / Experts recommend a universal drought index / Launching the Global Framework for Climate Services / Launch of the Register of WMO Members Alerting Authorities / WCRP establishes a Sea-level Task Group / Meeting on the evolution of global observing systems / Strengthening weather forecasting worldwide / WMO scientists explain cold wave


  group photo

WMO at the United Nations Climate Change Conference

As in previous years, WMO participated in the annual (fifteenth) session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 15).

At the opening plenary session of the thirty-first meeting of the Subsidiary Body of Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA), reported the outcomes of World Climate Conference-3 and its decision to establish the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS). The goal of the proposed GFCS is to ensure that in future, every country and every climate-sensitive sector will be better equipped to access and to apply climate information and predictions, thus ensuring that climate science is effectively used for serving societal needs.

Mama Konaté, Director-General of the Mali Meteorological Service and Permanent Representative of Mali with WMO, was elected Chairman of SBSTA for the next two years.

In preparation for COP 15, the WMO Secretary-General, along with his message to National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs), circulated a position paper on “Improved Decision-Making for Climate Change Adaptation”. The goal was to help the NMHSs provide appropriate inputs to their respective delegations on matters related to observations, research, early warnings, climate predictions and climate services. More than 160 delegates from NMHSs attended COP 15. An informal meeting was organized for the representatives from NMHSs to share information, as well as to discuss the position paper and the role of science in the on-going negotiations. Representatives expressed keen interest in moving forward with WCC-3 outcomes and in improving climate services offered by NMHSs at national levels.

WMO organized a side event along with UNESCO as its partner under “climate knowledge base” in the United Nation's "Delivering as One initiative". The side event, entitled “Observation, monitoring and prediction: Essential elements of climate knowledge”, brought together scientists, the WMO community and senior managers from UNESCO and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

The WMO Secretary-General was invited as a keynote speaker to side events organized by ITU, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Green Cross International. He also attended the United Nations Chief Executives Board meeting, which brought together the Secretary-General and Chief Executives of the United Nations System. On the sidelines of the Conference, the WMO Secretary-General had constructive meetings and discussions with various delegations, in particular with the Vice-President of Gambia, the Prime Minister of Namibia, the Prime Minister of Vanuatu and other senior government officials.

WMO press conferences were organized in which the WMO Secretary-General and other members of the delegation informed the media about the status of the global climate in 2009; WMO future climate initiatives, such as the GFCS; extreme weather disasters in 2009, in collaboration with the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and UNDP; and the development of a universal meteorological drought index for a standardized drought monitoring system.

An exhibition booth was established where various WMO information materials were displayed. The booth was at a strategic location and attracted many visitors. WMO was grateful to the Danish Meteorological Institute  for rendering close cooperation and support.



Preparing for the rainy and hurricane seasons in Haiti

Operational meteorological services are essential to preventing further disasters in Haiti. The country now faces the approaching rainy season in early April, which poses flood risk, as well as the hurricane season beginning in early June. Weather forecasts and early warnings from the Haiti National Meteorological Center are essential for emergency contingency planning and recovery.

WMO Members have been providing weather information for Haiti since domestic meteorological facilities were rendered unusable by the recent earthquake. In the medium- to long-term, WMO is coordinating with government officials, technical agencies and development partners to reconstruct such meteorological and hydrological capacities.



Decision on systematic climate observations at COP 15

At the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen in December 2009, the fifteenth Conference of Parties (COP 15) agreed to take steps to address priorities and gaps in systematic climate observations. It noted in particular the work of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), the programme jointly sponsored by WMO, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the United Nations Environment Programme and the International Council for Science.

GCOS reported to the thirtieth session of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Subsidiary Body of Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA) in June 2009 on the draft “Progress Report on the Implementation of the Global Observing System for Climate in Support of the UNFCCC 2004- 2008.” It was responding to a request from SBSTA’s twenty-third session in December 2005. Parties to the UNFCCC endorsed the main findings of the report at SBSTA in June and also forwarded a draft decision for consideration by COP 15.

The Parties at COP 15 adopted this decision with no discussion. In doing so, the Parties noted that only limited advances have been made in achieving long-term continuity for several in situ observing systems and that there are still large areas, in Africa for example, for which in situ observations and measurements are not available. It also noted that not all climate information requirements under the Convention are being met.

The COP 15 decision urges Parties to work toward addressing the priorities and gaps identified in the progress report on the implementation of the global observing system for climate, and calls upon Parties to support the necessary activities, with emphasis on developing countries. It referred to the need to implement the regional action plans that GCOS helped develop from 2001 to 2006. The Parties wish to see sustained long-term operation of essential in situ networks, especially for the oceanic and terrestrial domains, including through provision of the necessary resources.

The COP 15 decision invited relevant United Nations agencies and international organizations to do the same as Parties. It encouraged Parties, as possible, to support activities aimed at sustaining climate observations over the long term in developing countries, especially the least developed countries and small island developing states.

The decision also encouraged the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites to continue coordinating and supporting the implementation of the satellite component of the Global Climate Observing System. It urged Parties to enable their space agencies involved in global observations to continue to implement, in a coordinated manner through the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites, the actions needed to meet the relevant needs of the Convention, in particular by ensuring long-term continuity of observations and data availability.

Finally, the Parties invited the GCOS Secretariat to finalize the provisional 2010 GCOS Implementation Plan, taking into account emerging needs in climate observation and including a refined breakdown of the costs involved. The provisional updated Implementation Plan had been submitted to COP 15 and was welcomed in the SBSTA conclusions on “Research and Systematic Observations” in its thirty-first session, also held in Copenhagen. The COP requested that GCOS make the final Plan available at its thirty-third session, to be held during COP 16 in Mexico City, beginning 29 November 2010.



  Inter-Regional Workshop on Indices and Early Warning Systems for Drought, which was held at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from 8 to 11 December 2009

Experts recommend a universal drought index

Fifty-four experts from 22 countries from all the different regions of the world gathered at an Inter-Regional Workshop on Indices and Early Warning Systems for Drought, which was held at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from 8 to 11 December 2009.

A number of agricultural and hydrological drought indices are currently in use around the world. The workshop reviewed the drought indices currently in use, as well as assessed the capacity for collecting information on impacts of drought, reviewed the current and emerging technologies for drought monitoring and discussed the need for consensus standard indices for describing different types of droughts.

The workshop also recommended the establishment of two working groups with representatives from different regions and observers from United Nations agencies and research institutions (and water resource management agencies for hydrological droughts), to further discuss and recommend, by the end of 2010, the most comprehensive indices to characterize agricultural and hydrological droughts.

The workshop urged WMO, as well as other United Nations agencies and relevant governmental institutions, to take into consideration these workshop conclusions and recommendations.




Launching the Global Framework for Climate Services

Representatives from more than 100 countries, as well as from non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations, met in Geneva, Switzerland, from 11 to 12 January 2010 to follow-up on the decision by World Climate Conference-3 (WCC-3) to establish a Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) to strengthen the production, availability, delivery and application of science-based climate prediction and services.

As mandated by WCC-3, the intergovernmental meeting, chaired by WMO President Alexander I. Bedritskiy, approved the terms of reference and endorsed the composition of a High-level Taskforce of independent advisers, which the Secretary-General of the WMO was requested to set up. The Taskforce will follow up with recommendations for proposed elements of the GFCS, as well as for next steps to develop and implement the GFCS. Its report will be published before the next quadrennial World Meteorological Congress in May 2011.

The terms of reference and composition of the Taskforce is available online.




Launch of the Register of WMO Members' Alerting Authorities

When a hazard threat is imminent, Disseminators and users of alerts must quickly determine who has alerting responsibility for the particular geographic area and type of hazard. To that end, WMO recently launched the Register of WMO Members' Alerting Authorities. Alerting authorities, emergency managers, the media and other stakeholders can use the Register routinely in their operations.

A public view of the Register is available online. Those who need to monitor updates can Subscribe to a Register news feed via RSS. An entry in this Register contains: the WMO Member name; organizational name of the alerting authority; types of messages for which the organization has authority; Internet addresses where the alerting authority serves its forecasts and/or alert messages; and the geographic area wherein the organization typically performs alerting.

This Register supports the WMO strategic interest in all-hazard, all-media public warnings, particularly the worldwide adoption of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Recommendation X.1303, Common Alerting Protocol. This recommendation allows a consistent warning message to be disseminated simultaneously over many different warning systems, thus increasing warning effectiveness while simplifying the warning task. The Register will also incorporate ITU Object Identifiers, globally unique identifiers for alerting authorities as registered by WMO Members.

Initially, entries in the Register reflect the information gathered in 2006 through the WMO Disaster Risk Reduction Country-Level Survey. WMO Members will designate an editor to update entries in the Register.

Each WMO Member is expected to maintain at least one entry in the Register. Members may maintain multiple Register entries in cases where different organizations handle different jurisdiction areas or different types of hazards. As about 80 per cent of all disasters involve the weather, in many countries, the National Meteorological and Hydrological Service is the key national agency for issuing alerts.

Governmental organizations have no greater responsibility than to ensure the safety of life, the protection of property, and the well-being of their nations’ citizens. By helping to identify the “single official voice for dissemination of warnings”, this Register will aid appropriate authorities and emergency responders in their mission to protect the lives, livelihoods and property of the public they serve.




WCRP establishes a Sea-level Task Group

  high water

Sea level is one of the major impacts of anthropogenic climate change: it is higher now and is rising much more rapidly than any time in the past 3 000 years. Satellite measurements show sea level rising by 3.4 millimetres per year from 1993 to 2008, almost twice the average rate for the twentieth century. Sea level will continue rise for many centuries even after global temperatures are stabilized as it takes that long for the ocean and ice sheets to fully respond to a warmer climate.

Significant progress has been achieved by science in quantifying and explaining the observed sea-level change in recent decades. The main challenge for the climate science now is to address the uncertainties in the projection of the future sea-level changes due to recently discovered processes in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

In view of the clear need for improved information on sea-level rise by many stakeholders around the world, the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) proposed to establish a Sea-level Task Group during its last Joint Scientific Committee meeting (JSC-30, Maryland USA, wcrp.essic.umd.edu/ JSC2009/index.html). The Group would be one element of the implementation of the WCRP Strategic Framework and would be co-sponsored by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).

The IOC/WCRP Task Group on Sea-level Variability has been tasked to further improve the ability to assess periodically, explain, and predict global and regional sea level, as well as all environmental factors related to it, and to use this information for informed decision-making. The Task Group is lead by an Executive Committee that will meet for the first time in Bern, Switzerland, in March 2010 in order to plan activities with the wide scientific community.




Meeting on the evolution of global observing systems


The Fifth Session of the Commission for Basic Systems (CBS) Expert Team on the Evolution of the Global Observing Systems (ET-EGOS-5) took place at WMO in Geneva, Switzerland, from 30 November to 4 December 2009, under the chairmanship of John Eyre from the UK Met Office.

As part of the Rolling Review of Requirements process, the Team defined detailed actions for the review and updating of the database of user requirements and observing system capabilities. The Team considered newly revised Statements of Guidance (SoGs) for global numerical weather prediction, regional numerical weather prediction, aeronautical meteorology, nowcasting and very short-range forecasting, ocean applications and climate. It also discussed coverage requirements for the Aircraft Meteorological Data Relay (AMDAR) and atmospheric composition, where specific recommendations were made.

The Team considered areas requiring new SoGs related to new component systems of the WMO Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS). It proposed a strategy for the preparation of a new plan for the evolution of global observing systems (EGOS-IP), based on the “WMO Vision for the GOS in 2025” and WIGOS needs. The Team proposed a preliminary list of actions from the draft 2010 update of the “Global Climate Observing System Implementation Plan” to be addressed in the new EGOS-IP. Recommendations will be made to CBS accordingly.

The final report of the Session is available online.




Strengthening weather forecasting worldwide

  severe weather
  Recent work underpins advances in the Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project .

Operational weather forecasting by WMO Members is the focus of the Global Data-Processing and Forecasting System (GDPFS). This system spans the day-to-day around-the-clock work of teams of weather forecasters, computing specialists, technical and support staff of the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) of the 189 WMO Members. Many forecasting centres carry out numerical weather prediction (NWP) activities, which involve the running of complex mathema-tical simulation models of the atmosphere to describe both the current state of the atmosphere and make predictions of its future states from hours to months to seasons in advance.

The activities of the GDPFS are part of the World Weather Watch Programme, which is the responsibility of the Commission for Basic System (CBS). Following its fourteenth session (25 March to 2 April 2009, Dubrovnik, Croatia), CBS, within its Open Programme Area Group of Data-Processing and Forecasting System, held several follow-up meetings to enhance its activities in operational forecasting.

For example, the meeting of the CBS Expert Team on Ensemble Prediction Systems (EPS) was held at the UK Met Office from 5 to 9 October 2009. Significant progress has occurred in operational EPS. However, many NMHSs, especially those of developing countries, do not have the computing facilities or capability to generate products from ensemble fields. The application of EPS to predict severe or high-impact weather events is critical, and the Expert Team discussed the associated challenges and guidance on how to promote and enhance use of EPS in routine forecasting, for use by trainers and forecasters.

Also in 2009, the meeting of the CBS Coordination Group on Forecast Verification was held at Eureopean Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) in Reading, United Kingdom, from 24 to 26 November 2009. The Group reviewed the existing standard for NWP deterministic verification as defined in the WMO Manual on the GDPFS. Performing NWP without verification is inconsistent with quality management principles, does not provide necessary quality information to forecasters, and would result in an unreliable and unsustainable activity. The Coordination Group agreed that some essential parts of the recommended actions for verification should be made mandatory and that efficient and systematic verification systems should be run in real-time.

All of this work underpins recent advances in the Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project (SWFDP) in southern Africa and the South Pacific Islands. In conjunction with these initiatives, important training activities provided Weather forecasters worldwide with technical knowledge and practical guidance related to use of advanced NWP products, including from EPS, in severe weather forecasting – all in collaboration with the Public Weather Services programme training on delivery of warning services. SWFDP is a vital mechanism for increasing the reach and effectiveness of the GDPFS, especially for developing countries.



WMO scientists explain cold wave

  snow on tree

In January 2010, WMO experts responded to queries from the worldwide press about the cold wave in the northern hemisphere. With inputs from Members, they explained that the cold wave was a meteorological phenomenon caused by the large-scale blocking of atmospheric circulation on a major North-South corridor. The phenomenon is well known by meteorologists and is generally linked with atmospheric oscillations, such as the Arctic oscillation, which has been relatively powerful since mid-December 2009. The northern hemisphere winter was expected to revert to its normal features from the West and South in Western Europe in mid-January. The experts still pointed out that some severe episodes will no doubt linger in several regions of the world and during certain periods of the winter season, which was quite normal.



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