Multi-hazard early warning systems / Strengthening the capacities of African countries / International Polar Year continues / Food security / New ozone-measuring programme / Climate change work: a contribution to world peace / Forecast demonstrations during the Beijing 2008 Olympics /
Effective early warning systems involve: observing, monitoring and forecasting natural hazards; developing authoritative and understandable warning messages that include hazard and risk information; timely dissemination of warnings to authorities and those at risk; and emergency preparedness and response measures at community level, based on the warning information received.
Since the Asian tsunami disaster of 2004, WMO, in collaboration with other UN agencies and international partners, has initiated pilot projects to demonstrate the benefits of a multi-hazard approach to early warning systems. These will provide governments with the basis for guidelines for the establishment and sustainability of these systems in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.
More resources for natural hazard prediction, better communication and public awareness of warnings, and disaster preparedness measures would save lives. Disaster preparedness measures include national and local emergency plans and legislation which clearly lay out the roles and responsibilities of the different agencies in the operational warning system in place.
In January 2008, upgrading of the WMO Global Telecommunication System (GTS) in Yangon was completed. The GTS plays a vital role in accessing the meteorological data that are essential for the preparation of warnings. Timely and accurate alerts and warnings about Nargis were issued from 27 April onwards.
A WMO field mission to Myanmar in the aftermath of Nargis concluded that the country’s operational meteorological infrastructure needed to be restored and the provision of meteorological information and services enhanced.
Damaged hydrometeorological equipment and instruments have to be repaired and an upper-air observing system and a weather radar installed. The data-processing and forecasting system needs to be strengthened to generate numerical storm-surge prediction and storm-induced flood forecasting. Back-up electric power supply is required for ensuring minimum operational services under all circumstances. Staff need to be trained and public weather services enhanced for sharing weather information and warnings that are clear to, and understandable by, all.
WMO will be giving technical advice for disaster risk reduction, such as risk assessment and risk mapping, to help reduce the vulnerability of the people in the Irrawaddy delta.
Although the development and sustainability of effective end-to-end early warning systems are resource-intensive, posing significant challenges, particularly in the developing and Least Developed Countries, they are highly cost-effective.
Developing countries could be better protected against the damaging effects of climate change, variability and extreme weather events if their National Meteorological and Hydrological Services were strengthened.
WMO regards such Services as actors of development. They have an important role to play in regional and international action plans, particularly with regard to evaluating and monitoring the environment, preparing for natural hazards, agricultural production, water resources and, particularly, climate change.
It is important to ensure that, in the long term, these countries can monitor and research extreme meteorological and hydrological events, such as evaluating the impacts of climate change and applying measures to adapt to, and mitigate against, such phenomena.
Many African countries are among the world’s least developed and, consequently, are the most susceptible to threats posed by meteorological and hydrological disasters, such as drought, flooding, cyclones, duststorms and other extreme events. But, if more is invested in developing the observational capacities of their National Meteorological and Hydrological Services, improved weather forecasts, improved early warnings of imminent natural hazards and climate predictions can be made available to decision-makers and end-users.
Serious gaps still exist in observation networks, often due to instrument and systems failure, as well as the high costs of operation and maintenance. Statistics confirm the increasing economic impact that natural disasters have caused during recent decades. Moreover, these dangers strike harder at developing countries and, more particularly, the least developed among them, which increases their vulnerability and delays the realization of their economic and social growth targets.
Flooding and drought cause water shortages, damage crops and threaten food security.
WMO stresses the urgent need for fulfilling commitments under the United Nations Millennium Development Goals in Least Developed Countries, which are constrained by extreme and omnipresent poverty, stifled economic growth, insufficient development of human resources and limited institutional capacities.
Investing in and developing methods that can assess the socio-economic advantages of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services highlight the importance of these Services in the context of sustainable development.
International Polar Year 2007-2008 (IPY) is an intensive and internationally coordinated campaign of high-quality bi-polar research activities and observations, sponsored by WMO and the International Council for Science (ICSU). It began on 1March2007 and will reach its peak during the northern hemisphere summer this year. Over 200projects endorsed by the ICSU/WMO Joint Committee for IPY are carried out in both polar regions on the land, over the ocean, in the atmosphere and in space.
Polar atmospheric research has been intensified in the Arctic by the establishment of a new international environmental observatory (Tiksi). Moreover, the establishment of a new station, modernization of equipment at several observing stations and deployment of new automatic weather stations have been positive developments in the Antarctic.
International multidisciplinary marine expeditions related to studies of physical and chemical oceanic processes, sea-ice pro-perties and coverage, physical and chemical interactions of atmosphere, sea ice and ocean, marine geology and biology were successfully carried out in the summer of 2007 in the Arctic Ocean within various IPY projects such as DAMOCLES, SEARCH, ARCTICA-2007 and OASIS.
One of the main achievements of these activities was the deployment (for the first time in the history of Arctic Ocean studies) of 156 oceanographic moorings and arrays, as well as a large number of new underwater and under-ice mobile observing facilities across the Arctic Ocean. The first stage of the IPY project Climate of Antarctica and Southern Ocean was carried out from January to March 2008.
The successful start of IPY has been reflected by a marked increase of the number of reports from traditional observational networks in both polar regions. For example, the number of drifting buoy reports in the Southern Ocean increased five times compared with 2006.
Considerable progress is being made by space agencies towards the characterization of key high-latitude processes by means of spaceborne snapshots of the polar regions under the GIIPSY IPY project. These data include obtaining Arctic basin wide and Southern Ocean wide coverage for sea-ice dynamics mapping, obtaining continental-scale coverage of Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets and pan-Arctic lake and river freeze- and break-up.
The major outcome was a technical background document entitled “Climate change and mitigation in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries”.
They are operated by the GAW World Optical Depth Research and Calibration Centre in Davos, Switzerland. They form part of a 12-station global reference network for a large global network of more than 100 stations operated by a number of research organizations (US National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s AERONET, Asia SKYNET) and national GAW programmes of WMO Members. Most significantly, these instruments fill large gaps in the global aerosol network over Asia and Africa.
The Argentine Meteorological Service, in collaboration with the Spanish Meteorological Agency and the government of the province of Tierra del Fuego, has started a new measurement programme for observing atmospheric ozone from the global WMO Global Atmosphere Watch station at Ushuaia in the south of Argentina (55°S and 68°W). The measurements are carried out with balloon-borne ozonesondes that measure the ozone concentration in the atmosphere from the ground up to about 35 km. The first sounding was carried out on 16 April 2008.
This new measurement programme is a timely and valuable contribution to the global atmospheric observing effort coordinated by WMO.
Data from Ushuaia will be transmitted to the WMO World Ozone and UV Data Centre in Toronto, Canada, and thereby be available to the global community of ozone scientists and other interested parties. The data will also be used in the Antarctic Ozone Bulletins, published by WMO from August to November each year.
The availability of, and access to, freshwater resources have been the cause of conflict in the past. With potentially lesser amounts of the resource and uneven geographic distribution, the potential for conflict grows exponentially.
A technical paper of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the impacts of climate change on water is an important addition to its recent Fourth IPCC Assessment Report. It reinforces the need for countries, particularly n the developing world, to strengthen the monitoring and observational capacities of their National Meteorological and Hydrological Services.
The paper emphasizes the link between global warming and large-scale changes in the hydrological cycle, including changing precipitation patterns, intensities and extremes, the reduction of snow cover over continents and ice cover over the oceans, the melting of continental ice, and changes in soil moisture and runoff, including the occurrence and intensity of droughts.
All these aspects of the climate system are central to WMO’s expertise and the results highlight the need to further support research and observations.
Indeed, WMO has been the principal provider of the scientific and technical information that underpins IPCC assessments through the long-term and user-driven operational systems and programmes developed by WMO and its Members.
During the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the Beijing Meteorological Bureau will host, in an operational setting, the latest nowcast and mesoscale ensemble forecasting systems from Australia, Canada, France, Japan and the USA. Specifically, products from both 0- to 6-hour nowcasts, which rely more heavily on expert systems interpreting the available observations, and 6- to 36-hour forecasts based on mesoscale ensemble models will be made available to weather forecasters from the China Meteorological Administration (CMA).
The systems will be evaluated by forecasters immediately after the Games to assess the overall scientific accuracy of the various models and their ability to deliver the desired social and economic benefits. Just as the Olympic athletes are getting ready for Beijing, the forecast participants are currently undergoing tests of their systems in preparation for the 8-24 August time-frame of the Games.
The experiences from the forecast and demonstration projects during the Beijing 2008 Olympics will be published as a technical document by the World Weather Research Programme.
Contact: MeteoWorld Editor - WMO ©2008 Geneva, Switzerland