February 2008

Recent events

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Public Weather Services Symposium / Annual WMO Consultative Meeting on High-level Policy on Satellite Matters / International Organizing Committee of the World Climate Conference -3 (WIOC-1) / Fiftieth anniversary of the global CO2 record

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Public Weather Services Symposium
Geneva, 3-5 December 2007

The International Symposium on PWS: A Key to Service Delivery was held in Geneva from 3 to 5 December 2007 and was attended by 120 speakers and participants. The main objective was to carry out a thorough review of the achievements of the Public Weather Services Programme (PWSP) during the 13 years of its existence, and to prepare a roadmap for the future, with a view to improving delivery of services by National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS) and other entities engaged in weather, climate and water issues for the next decade and beyond.

The symposium noted the achievements that the PWSP had attained since its inception in 1994. It was particularly noted that NMHSs had visibly benefited from the many activities carried out by PWSP which included: publication of guidance materials helping NMHSs to establish and carry out key PWS functions; training workshops and seminars, and mobilization of resources to build capacity for establishment of facilities such as weather studios, vital for packaging of weather information, forecasts and warnings.

The PWSP was seen to have been successful in increasing the number of NMHSs delivering weather services to the public through television, radio, the print media and the Internet. It had also contributed to the quality of these services in terms of ease with which the public could understand PWS products, and in the timeliness of delivery. The Symposium also appreciated the role of PWS in raising the visibility and status of NMHSs in many countries, thus making it easier for them to receive institutional and fiscal support.

Major thrusts defining the implementation of PWS included: user focus; emphasis on the enhancement of the capacity of NMHSs to work effectively with the media; establishment of the World Weather Information Services (WWIS) and the Severe Weather Information Centre (SWIC) Websites, which provide official weather information and warnings to the media; and awareness creation and public education.

The Symposium agreed that certain issues were likely to affect the strategic setting of PWS now and in the foreseeable future, necessitating a new approach to PWS services delivery. These included: broad issues of water supply, the environment, climate change, human health and urbanization; increased population size and vulnerability in many parts of the world, placing new demands on NMHSs in terms of quality and types of services required; advances in science and technology offering new challenges and opportunities to enhance the range, relevance and quality of PWS; and the effects of increased engagement of social sciences in environmental issues.

The symposium recognized the need for NMHSs to adopt a new service delivery paradigm in order to provide a suite of integrated services to a wider range of audiences and recommended that: WMO should consider further evolution of the PWSP so that it can assist Members in addressing major strategies such as the UN Millennium Development Goals, the Nairobi Work Programme of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Madrid Action Plan on social and economic benefits of weather, climate and water services. It was also recommended that the structure of the PWSP Open Programme Area Group (OPAG) should be reconsidered in the light of increased importance of addressing social and economic aspects of public weather services. The Symposium recommended that PWSP strategies of implementation such as production of guidelines, training and public education should be enhanced even further.

podium participants

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Annual WMO Consultative Meeting on High-level Policy on Satellite Matters
New Orleans, USA, 15-16 January 2008

Hi-tech efforts to better understand global warming have been strengthened after the world’s space and meteorological agencies gave their support to a WMO strategy for the enhanced use of satellites to monitor climate change and weather.

The backing came during a two-day high-level meeting that ended yesterday in New Orleans, USA, attended by top officials of space agencies contributing to global Earth observations on research and operational bases.

WMO presented its updated space-based Global Observing System (GOS) to top officials representing agencies from across the world. Agencies participating in the meeting welcomed WMO’s initiative to set an ambitious and forward-looking goal to foster international cooperation towards an enhanced global satellite system for the coming decades. The agencies also expressed readiness to help make this vision become a reality.

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), created and co-sponsored by WMO and the United Nations Environment Programme, for its work on monitoring the man-made impacts on the Earth’s climate came as a further recognition of the need for global, accurate and continuous observations.

At least 16 geostationary and low-earth orbit satellites currently provide operational data on the planet’s climate and weather as part of the GOS. They are complemented by numerous experimental satellites designed for scientific missions or instrument technology demonstration. A record number of 17 satellites are planned for launch in 2008 to further strengthen the GOS.

Satellites have been used for decades to monitor climatic and weather conditions. But better integration of satellites and the constant refinement of their capabilities are crucial to keep check on the effects of climate change, such as atmospheric changes, sea-level rise and desertification. This can only be achieved through increased cooperation and data exchange among nations, which is at the heart of the WMO Space Programme plan.

Other key accomplishments from the meeting included:

  • The first contribution by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais), which operates a joint satellite programme with China monitoring the environment. Brazil provided data and products from its space observations over South- America, Africa and China, which will be freely available to WMO’s 188 Members;
  • Major progress on the WMO-run International Geostationary Laboratory (IGEOLAB) to use satellites for highly elliptical orbits, which allow almost permanent coverage of high-latitude areas for weather, ice and snow monitoring, as well as for telecommunications and data collection;
  • Guidelines developed for the transition of successful research and development satellites into more permanent, operational missions. Guidelines will be submitted to the WMO Executive Council for approval;
  • The start of the Regional Specialized Satellite Centre in Climate Monitoring, which is necessary for the continuous and sustained provision of high-quality Essential Climate Variables satellite products on a global scale.

The goal of the space-based component of the Global Observing System is to meet the observation needs of all WMO Programmes dealing with weather, climate, water, the atmosphere, and disaster prevention and mitigation, as well as WMO co-sponsored programmes such as the World Climate Research Programme, the Global Climate Observing System, Global Ocean Observing System, and Global Terrestrial Observing System. It is a major component of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems.

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International Organizing Committee of the World Climate Conference-3 (WIOC)
First meeting (WIOC-1), Geneva, 4-6 February 2008

World Climate Conference-3 (WCC-3), to be hosted by Switzerland, will be entitled: “Climate prediction for decision-making: focusing on seasonal to inter-annual time-scales taking into account multi-decadal prediction.” The representatives of more than 20 organizations in WIOC-1, including United Nations agencies, called for the international scientific community, as well as governments, to do more to improve seasonal climate predictions to enable the planet to adapt to the impacts of climate variability and change, saving lives and protecting economies in the process.

Previous World Climate Conferences have been decisive events. The first, held in 1979, led to the 1988 establishment of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, jointly established by WMO and the United Nations Environment Programme. The second, in 1990, strengthened global efforts that resulted in the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992.

An assertive process will be needed over the next few months to get all aspects of the Conference moving forward. The WIOC emphasized the need for an implementation plan and a timeline with milestones.

Key points identified during WIOC-1 included the urgent need to enhance global environmental observations and to preserve climatic records. Open access to climate data and information is also needed, as well as improvements of the accuracy, resolution and scope of climate analyses and predictions.

Comprehensive climate information can provide largely untapped opportunities to manage climate risks, including extreme weather events, heat waves, flooding, sustained droughts and more frequent cyclones. It will also help communities adapt to the adverse affects of climate variability and change, such as sea level rise, water and food shortages, desertification and risks to human health.

“The world needs to strengthen existing mechanisms that predict climatic events and then ensure that this information is made available to all, especially to the benefit of people in least developed countries. Improving the science of seasonal prediction will help everyone.”

“There has been too little global investment in the science that underpins seasonal climate prediction, and this is what the World Climate Conference wants to remedy,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said. “The World Climate Conference is looking at the future, at what type of science is needed over the next 10 years to provide the type of seasonal predictions that can save people’s lives and livelihoods. And it will seek high-level support, particularly from governments, to make this happen.”

Several WMO-backed climate prediction centres currently produce global temperature and precipitation predictions through use of powerful computer models. But strengthening and coordinating these capabilities can optimize and extend these global responses to climate variability and extremes, and meet the needs of decision-makers for better climate predictions in major socio-economic sectors.

WCC-3 International Organizing Committee Chair, Don MacIver from Canada said: “The world needs to strengthen its ability to assess and predict the likelihood of severe events arising from climate variability and change, and then ensure that this information is made available to all, especially for the benefit of least developed countries. Improving climate information and prediction will help everyone.”

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