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Climate

Climate outlooks

Climate outlooks are becoming more and more accurate and are therefore increasing in usefulness for users, who are showing ever more willingness to participate in climate outlook discussions and use the information in support of preparedness for natural disasters and socio-economic activities. Recently, for the Greater Horn of Africa, the state of the current El Niño event was discussed,  global climate models’ output assessed and rainfall outlooks prepared. 

In Asia, a review of the limitations and prospects of seasonal-to-interannual climate forecasting methodologies and systems was made and experience and forecasting products were shared. 

Notable advances have been made during the past five years in seasonal climate prediction and its applications to decision-making in agriculture. This remains an area of particular importance, especially in developing countries. 

Developing a consensus product from amongst the multiple available individual predictions stimulates the development of climate capacity in the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services of the Asian region.  Decisions and activities are generated that mitigate adverse impacts of climate and help communities adapt to climate variability.   

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Regional Climate Outlook Forums

For more information, see http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/wcp/wcasp/wcasp_home_en.html

 

Climate change in the Alps 

Regional climate change projections show that warmer temperatures are expected to coexist with somewhat increased winter precipitation and a significant reduction in winter snow cover duration.

A recent study has indicated that the amount of snow at certain European ski resorts might diminish. It is projected that, by 2030, 20-70% of Swiss glaciers may disappear, continuing the tendency that can be traced back to the end of the so-called “Little Ice Age”. 

Glacier loss constitutes environmental degradation, a problem for water managers and also for skiers. Increased melting of alpine permafrost makes many areas vulnerable to landslides and reduces stability of cableways, lift masts and other constructions.

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For more information, see: http://www.geo.unizh.ch/wgms/

More quality climate data

Data collected under the aegis of WMO and its partners provide invaluable input to international environmental conventions such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 

In this respect, requirements have recently been identified for data and associated climate products, which take into account existing global, regional and national plans, programmes and initiatives. These include those of the Group on Earth Observations, implementation priorities and resource requirements, as well as indicators for measuring progress. 

Critical issues related to observing the global climate are the improvement of satellite and in situ networks for atmospheric, oceanic and terrestrial observations; the generation of integrated global climate analysis products; the increased participation of least-developed countries and Small Island Developing States; better access to high-quality global data; and strengthening national and international infrastructure. 

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Small Island Developing States will benefit from improved quality data. 

For more information, see: http://earthobservations.org/

Tourism: the importance of weather and climate 

Tourism is one of the largest economic activities and one of the fastest growing in the world today. Tourists’ expenditure can account for as much as 95 per cent of the Gross National Product of Small Island Developing States. Tourism is also a significant employer in many countries.

Weather and climate information and accurate predictions of extreme climatic events developed by WMO’s National Meteorological and Hydrological Services are of increasing significance. Governments and the private sector need to recognize the importance of managing and using weather and climate information and incorporate that information in tourism policies, development and planning.

An effective coordination between WMO and its partners is essential for further research, awareness raising and capacity building, as well as for the development and application of adaptation and mitigation measures in the tourism sector.

Since 1992, WMO has had a working agreement with the World Tourism Organization (WTO). In December 2003, the WTO became a specialized agency of the United Nations. In November 2004, the WTO convened a meeting of UN agencies (including FAO, ICAO, ILO, UNCTAD, UNEP, UNESCO, UNESCWA, WHO and WMO) to enhance coordination and effectiveness of the tourism-related activities in each of these areas of interest, particularly with a view to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and implementing the Johannesburg Plan of Action. An interagency coordination mechanism for tourism was established.

 

Tourism will be the focus of the 27th edition of the World Climate News, and WTO contributed the lead article. In addition, WMO participated in the fourth World Snow and Mountain Tourism Congress in Andorra, 14 -16 April 2005, during which participants considered the many changes affecting ‘winter’ tourism, including changing climate. Furthermore, the WCP works with partners through the European Union COST actions on matters related to thermal stress, wellness, recreation and sustainable tourism.

Given the importance of climate to most aspects of tourism, ranging from the traveller’s choices of where to visit, to long-range planning at international levels, the WMO World Climate Programme (WCP) and the Commission for Climatology are considering establishment of an Expert Team an climate and tourism, at the fourteenth session of the CCl (November 2005, Beijing, China).

 

 

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What’s in a name? 

El Niño and La Niña events are perturbations in the ocean-atmosphere system related to unusual warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean and associated changes in the trade winds. This phenomenom is known as El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). 

ENSO events have different impacts in different parts of the world. They can be responsible for flooding and droughts and the changing behaviour of fish stocks. They have also been linked to coral bleaching and outbreaks of tropical diseases such as malaria. 

Scientists, decision-makers, the media and the public in different countries often refer to El Niño and La Niña, but each may have a different understanding of the terms and what constitutes an “event”. 

WMO has initiated a project to compile the various definitions in use around the world. This reference and ongoing research into instruments and modelling will support global coordination of ENSO activities and improved monitoring and prediction.

See: http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/wcp/wcasp/wcasp_home_en.html and

http://www.clivar.org/science/index.htm

  
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Climate research

The oceans in a carbon “rich” world 

The carbon uptake from the atmosphere with higher carbon dioxide is expected to produce excess of carbonic acid in the ocean upper layer. Increasing acidification may affect marine life, especially corals and hard-shelled organisms. The consequences of this process are difficult to project because the physiology of phytoplankton, ecological interactions and biogeochemical cycling have too many unknowns. 

One of the promising approaches to learn more about the complex reaction of the ocean to carbon impact are laboratory “microcosm” experiments, in which the existing plankton communities are exposed to carbon rich air and are left to evolve naturally. 

The results reveal marked changes in several types of plankton communities and demonstrate the need for corresponding quantitative representation of marine biological feedbacks in climate models. 

For more information, see http://www.uea.ac.uk/env/solas/

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Climate data from ice 

The “cryosphere”, i.e. snow cover, solid precipitation, sea, lake and river ice, glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets and frozen ground, including permafrost, is an integral part of the climate system. 

WMO, supports studies to assess and quantify the impacts of climate variability on the cryosphere and related feedbacks and work is ongoing to develop cryospheric indicators of global climate change. 

The project addresses the contribution of glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets to mean sea-level change, projections of sea-ice cover in the Arctic Ocean and cold climate processes and their impact on the global energy, water and carbon cycle. 

Cryospheric studies will form an important input to the International Polar Year 2007/2008. 

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The cryosphere exists at all latitudes. There is an urgent need to collect ice cores from high-altitude, low-latitude glaciers in order to collect the climate signals they contain.

For more information, see:  http://wcrp.wmo.int/wcrp-index.html

http://clic.npolar.no/

http://www.ipy.org/

        
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Marine safety and environment

Coastal and offshore  disasters 

Warning services and risk assessments are being enhanced so as to improve preparedness and mitigation measures in the case of natural disasters occurring in offshore and coastal zones. 

Most offshore disasters are the result of extreme wind and waves and certain coastal areas are prone to storm surges, tsunamis, river flooding and environmental degradation. WMO has been contributing to mitigation measures with regard to storm surges and the proposed early warning systems for tsunamis striking coastal lowlands in the Indian Ocean and other vulnerable areas.


Populations and the environment by the sea
 

Whilst warnings and disaster-risk assessments for oceans and coasts are modernized and enhanced, more attention is also paid to the quality of life and environment in coastal areas. Worldwide, there is a comprehensive population migration from the interior to the coast; megacities develop where once were beaches and the consequent impacts on environmental quality and safety is huge. WMO assists  National Meteorological and Hydrological Services to take appropriate preparedness and mitigation actions.


Safety at sea

WMO coordinates and enables warning services for the protection of life and property endangered by wind, weather, sea ice and sea states. A system of services has been established in collaboration with the International Maritime Organization, which builds on a comprehensive set of ocean observation programmes, numerical models and a variety of warning dissemination arrangements.

For more information, see: http://weather.gmdss.org/

and

http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/amp/mmop/index_en.html

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Natural disasters

Tsunami and storm surge early warning and response system in the Indian Ocean 

In view of the increased concern for security in the face of tsunamis, cyclones and other natural hazards, there is a need to coordinate national, regional and international efforts for establishing an integrated early warning system for areas at risk. WMO will assist countries concerned by assessing the needs for enhancing the capabilities of their National Meteorological and Hydrological Services to issue warnings. 

In cooperation with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic  Commission of UNESCO, a multi-hazard early warning system for the Indian Ocean (for tsunami and storm surge) is being developed. It is planned to use and build on the existing infrastructure for data collection and transmission, such as WMO’s Global Telecommunication System. 

For more information, see: http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/drr/index_en.html

 
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Weather research


WMO’s THORPEX will provide the research underpinning WMO’s multi-hazard approach to natural disaster prevention. 

THORPEX aims to accelerate improvements in the accuracy of one-day to two-week forecasts of high-impact weather and to demonstrate the socio-economic value of forecast products. 

THORPEX will benefit society by: extending the range of skilful weather forecasts to time-scales of value (up to 14 days) and developing accurate and timely weather warnings in a form that can be readily used by decision-makers; and by assessing the impact of weather forecasts and associated outcomes on the development of strategies to minimize the impact of natural hazards.

The datasets generated by THORPEX regional campaigns are currently being analysed and will be freely available for research purposes 

For more information, see: http://www.wmo.int/thorpex/

A THORPEX kit is available from WMO (printed material and CD-ROM) containing: 

• THORPEX: a Global Atmospheric Research Programme (WMO-No. 978)
• International Science Plan
• International Implementation Plan
• International Core Steering Committee for THORPEX (final report)

See also: http://www.wmo.int/e-catalog/


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No country is spared the effects of extreme or severe weather. THORPEX will help demonstrate the capabilities of global observations and weather prediction, especially for developing and least developed countries.


Cities and human health

Short lived pollutants in the air in the form of gases (e.g. ozone) and particles (aerosols) can have serious impacts on human health. They are generated mostly in urban areas by industry, power plants and by motor vehicle emissions. They can also affect health and the natural environment at places far removed.  

WMO promotes research into urban meteorology both locally and farther afield and seeks to enhance the capabilities of National Meteorological Services in providing good air quality services for use by a variety of sectors: human health, transport, event planning and leisure activities. 

Pilot projects are a means of expanding activities to tackle air-quality issues. One such project is currently under way to provide guidance for the 2008 Olympics to be held in Beijing, China. 

More and more cities now see the importance of providing 1-3 day outlooks of pollution levels of dust, smoke, and smog. These forecasts are distributed widely via newspapers, radio, TV, Websites and mobile telephone text messaging. 

WMO encourages the gathering of up to date information on new methods for forecasting air quality (chemical weather forecasting) and helps identify areas for future research. Guidelines and training in chemical weather forecasting are also provided.

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For more information, see: http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/arep/gaw/gaw_home_en.html

 
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Weather observations

Observing from land and space 

A plan has been developed to optimize implementation of the space- and surface-based subsystems of WMO’s Global Observing System as they evolve over the next 10 years. 

Concerning the space-based component, the rigorous calibration of sensors aboard operational and research-and-development satellites is recommended in order to ensure accurate readings and therefore improve the accuracy and timeliness of forecasts. The wind-profiling and global precipitation measurement missions were singled out as being particularly important in this respect.

With regard to the surface-based observing subsystem, requirements were identified for more complete and timely data distribution, and improved data coding for transmission purposes. Areas requiring increased or enhanced coverage were the oceans, the upper-air, especially over data-sparse areas; the moisture content of the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. It was recommended that ground-based geographical positioning systems, radars, and wind profilers be included in the observing system. Proposals were also made concerning the operational use of targeted observations.

For more information, see: http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/www/OSY/GOS.html and http://earthobservations.org/


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Satellite meteorology

Training in satellite meteorology

Staff of 12 National Meteorological and Hydrological Services in North, Central and South America have completed an intensive course in Costa Rica in the utilization of satellite data for a wide range of meteorological applications. 

Thanks to a donation of electronic notebooks by Colorado State University’s NOAA Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, these Services now have the latest training tools and the ability to access satellite data rapidly. The notebooks contain all the training materials, application software and data presented during the course and allow the trainers to train others upon their return home. 

New streams of satellite system data will be available at the end of the decade. Lectures covered the new analysis techniques and tools in order to prepare the participants and so improve overall satellite system utilization and effectiveness.  

WMO’s training centre in Costa Rica has pioneered a virtual laboratory for education and training in the use of satellite information for meteorological applications. WMO has capitalized on this and other centres to “train the trainers” and maximize the use of satellite data, products and services. Linked together through the Internet and a virtual resource library, the virtual laboratory provides WMO Members with the possibility of continuous education and training. 

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For more information, see http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/sat/index_en.html

 

Public weather services

Pilot weather Websites become operational

Two Websites on worldwide official weather forecasts and warnings, the World Weather Information Service (http://www.worldweather.org) and the Severe Weather Information Centre (http://severe.worldweather.org), developed and operated by the Hong Kong Observatory, China, on behalf of WMO, started formal operation on World Meteorological Day, 23 March 2005, after a trial period of more than two years. 

 
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