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Weather, climate and infectious diseases Global Atmosphere Watch / La Niña conditions / Instrument intercomparisons / Multi-hazard early warning systems / Satellite meteorology / Sustainability science / Sustainable agriculture / Agrometeorological services / Training


Weather, climate and infectious diseases 

Epidemics of weather- and climate-sensitive infectious diseases such as malaria and meningitis have a devastating effect on human well-being and socio-economic development. 

Climate influences both the development of the malaria parasite and the behaviour of the carrier mosquito. An estimated one million people die every year from the disease, while some 500 million are infected, of whom 90 per cent are in Africa. 

Employing a combination of climate-forecasting models, research scientists have recently been able to provide more accurate predictions of when and where an outbreak is likely to occur. Ensuing early warnings would enable decision-makers to identify areas where mosquito nets and anti-malarial drugs, among other things, could be deployed. 


With respect to avian influenza, studies show that infected birds have been the primary source of influenza A (H5N1) infections in humans. The disease is primarily contracted through inhalation of infectious droplets, by direct or  indirect contact with infected (sick or dead) birds. 

Mildly infected migratory birds may be able to carry the highly pathogenic virus long distances. WMO is taking steps to evaluate the role of hydrometeorological conditions in the spread of this disease. It is currently identifying groups, including National Meteorological Services, having research and assessment activities related to climate and avian influenza. The aim is to develop a multidisciplinary database of contacts.    





Global Atmosphere Watch 

Greenhouse-gas concentrations reached new highs in 2004

Globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) in the Earth’s atmosphere reached their highest-ever recorded levels in 2004 according to the first annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin published by WMO on 14 March. CO2 was recorded at 377.1 parts per million (ppm), CH4 at 1783 parts per billion (ppb), and N2O at 318.6 ppb. These values supersede those of pre-industrial times by 35%, 155% and 18% respectively, an increased over the previous decade by 19ppm, 37ppb and 8ppb in absolute amounts.

Accurate observations from some 44 WMO Members are archived and distributed by the World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases (WDCGG), located at the Japan Meteorological Agency. WMO prepares the Bulletin in cooperation with the WDCGG and the Global Atmosphere Watch Scientific Advisory Group for Greenhouse Gases with the assistance of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory. WMO plans to release the 2005 bulletin in November 2006.

See Press Release No. 744, Info Note No. 18





La Niña conditions 

WMO issued an El Niño/La Niña update on 3 March 2006 for the first time since April 2005. Observations of the equatorial Pacific showed that, at the beginning of the year, sea-surface temperatures had become anomalously cool in the central and eastern areas. At the time of the release of the update, tropical Pacific Ocean and atmospheric conditions were consistent with the early stages of a basin-wide La Niña event.   


(Source: NASA)

Experts agree that development of basin-wide conditions at this time of the year is highly unusual, leading to some additional uncertainty as to the extent to which “typical” La Niña rainfall and temperature patterns might occur for this event. 

Most computer models predict that conditions will return to neutral state by mid-year. Seasonal climate forecasts provided by National Meteorological and Hydrological Services will take into account the unusual conditions surrounding this La Niña event, as well as other relevant, locally-specific factors. 

The WMO El Niño/La Niña updates offer a global consensus on the status and evolution of the phases of El Niño and La Niña. 



Instrument intercomparisons 

Instrument intercomparisons are essential for ensuring the long-term accuracy and homogeneity of measurements, which form the basis of weather-, climate-, water- and environment-related information used for monitoring, forecasting, research and applications in many socio-economic sectors.   


Tenth International Pyrheliometer Comparison (Davos, Switzerland,
September/October 2005),

Measuring rainfall intensity 

A WMO laboratory intercomparison of 19 rainfall intensity gauges was carried out at three laboratories in France, the Netherlands and Italy, from September 2004 to September 2005. As well as an evaluation of the performance of the participating instruments, a standardized procedure for laboratory calibration of catchment-type raingauges and general guidance on objective laboratory tests were formulated. The exercise also provided information relevant to improving the homogeneity of rainfall time-series with special consideration given to high rainfall intensities. 

The quality-assessment procedure initiated in the laboratory will be followed up by an intercomparison in the field in Italy, from mid-2007 to mid-2008. This will allow for continuity in the performance assessment procedure and result in the estimation of the overall operational error to be expected in the measurement of rainfall intensity in the field. 

To this end, the operational aspects related to the intercomparison, such as conditions for participation, type of instrument, intercomparison rules, responsibility of the host(s) and participants, data acquisition, processing analysis methodology and publication results have been reviewed. 

Measuring solar radiation 

Continuously reliable and homogeneous solar radiation measurements are needed in support of climate monitoring and other applications. 

At the tenth International Pyrheliometer Comparison (Davos, Switzerland, September/October 2005), 101 pyrheliometers (including the World Standard Group instruments) were calibrated (see photo below). 

The favourable weather conditions yielded a record number of calibration points for most of the participating instruments. Cloudy and overcast days were used for technical preparations and training. 

Measuring temperature and humidity 

Intercomparisons are being planned for thermometer screens/shields and humidity-measuring instruments in Algeria. 

The further development of a World Standard Group of absolute long-wave radiometers has also been discussed. The Infrared Radiometer Calibration Centre, established at the World Radiation Centre in Davos in 2004, was audited.



 Multi-hazard early warning systems 

The Second World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR, Hyogo, Kobe, Japan, January 2005) adopted the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 (HFA). One of the high-priority areas for action stresses the identification, assessment and monitoring of risks and the enhancement of early warnings as a crucial component of disaster risk reduction. Early warning systems should also be developed with a multi-hazard approach. 

Significant initiatives have since emerged worldwide to develop national and regional strategic plans for disaster risk reduction based on the HFA. At the United Nations World Summit (New York, September 2005), governments requested that early warning systems for all natural hazards should be established, building on existing national and regional capacities to complement broader disaster preparedness and mitigation initiatives. 

The Secretary-General of the United Nations requested a global survey to be made of the status of early warning systems. WMO contributed to various aspects of this wide-ranging survey, a report of which was presented to the Third International Early Warning Conference, organized by Germany in March, under the auspices of the United Nations. The report calls for more detailed assessment of the technical capacities in all countries with respect to hydrometeorological and climate-related hazards, which account for nearly 90% of all natural disasters worldwide.   



Following the report’s recommendations, WMO announced the launch of a disaster prevention and mitigation survey to assess scientific and technical capacities on a country-by-country basis. WMO expects to complete the survey and develop a comprehensive country profile database later this year. 

In the mean time, WMO’s regional-level disaster prevention and mitigation survey will assess and prioritize similar needs and gaps at the regional level. 




Flash floods 

Flash floods can strike with little or no warning and can trigger massive landslides with catastrophic loss of life. They are among the most destructive of natural disasters, posing complex problems for communities, decision-makers, National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and relief organizations, especially in developing countries. 

At the first ever international workshop on flash-flood forecasting (Costa Rica, March 2006), there was consensus that the loss of life and property was unacceptable when appropriate technologies and know-how were available to prevent flash floods from becoming disasters. 

In order to reduce the impacts of these events, the experts participating in the workshop affirmed that an internationally concerted approach should be taken with the aim of establishing end-to-end flash-flood warning systems. 

They also agreed to maintain a platform for the exchange of knowledge, information and technology (including experts) while strengthening all elements of the flash-flood forecasting and warning systems. They also recognized the need for advanced data-observing systems, computer models communication systems and response planning. 

The experts began the testing and application of advanced technologies through region- specific demonstration projects of high national and international interest. 



See: and

Press Release No. 747 


Marine hazards 

Experts in marine meteorology and oceanography from WMO and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) have been discussing contributions to developing and maintaining marine multi-hazard warning systems for tsunamis, cyclones and storm surges. 

Important for this work is the  extension of communication means for the dissemination of marine safety information, especially in areas of poor coverage, by geostationary and polar-orbiting satellites or ground-based radio systems. Additional research is required to enhance forecasts and product delivery for marine hazards on all time-scales. 

Other important issues being addressed in this area are the operation of and sustained access to Earth Observing System satellites, and operation of coupled atmosphere-ice-ocean models. 

WMO and the IOC have also been discussing the preparation of a guide to storm-surge forecasting.   

sinking oil tanker





Satellite meteorology 

Centre of Excellence  

The Virtual Laboratory Centre of Excellence for Education and Training in Satellite Meteorology was commissioned in Oman in February, marking a significant step in efforts to strengthen preparedness in dealing with weather-related natural disasters in the Middle East.   


Mr M. Jarraud, the Secretary-General of the WMO, at the commissioning of the
 seventh Centre of Excellence for Education and Training in Satellite Meteorology, Muscat, Oman.

The new centre is jointly sponsored by WMO and EUMETSAT and is the seventh such WMO centre of excellence for training in satellite meteorology around the world. The other centres are in Australia, Barbados, China, Costa Rica, Kenya and Niger. 




Sustainability science 

The new discipline of sustainability science seeks to understand the mechanisms that damage global, social and human systems and their linkages, exemplified by global environmental problems and threats to human security. It also proposes methods and visions for repairing these systems and linkages. 

The Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science is an initiative launched by the University of Tokyo, Japan. It has the objective of establishing the world’s highest level research and education network for sustainability science, in alliance with leading Japanese universities and research institutes working in the field.  

WMO is participating in this initiative, notably in the areas of sustainable agriculture, perspectives for mitigating global warming and strategies for global sustainability.   



Sustainable agriculture 

Work is underway to assess and report on the appropriate agrometeorological criteria to conserve and manage natural and environmental resources for the benefit of agriculture, rangelands, forestry and fisheries. 

Case-studies are being documented of successful measures to manage land use, protect land and mitigate land degradation. Information on trends in land degradation is being surveyed and summarized. 


(Source: FAO)

Other activities concern the establishment of practical agrometeorological guidelines for the conservation of natural and environmental resources in harmony with agricultural production systems and operational guidelines for fire weather agrometeorology. 



Agrometeorological services 

Current constraints in the delivery of agrometeorological products and advisories are a major issue. The need to establish partnerships between private sector and agrometeorological services has been identified through case-studies that have been carried out on the socio-economic benefits of agrometeorological services in different regions.  

Projects on agroclimatic characterization and database management have been proposed for regional implementation as contributions to supporting and improving agrometeorological services. 




WMO is preparing a supplement to existing guidelines, in which the WMO requirements for the training and qualification of aeronautical meteorological personnel will be presented in a concise and unambiguous manner. It will also facilitate the development of specialized syllabi for the initial qualifications of such personnel. 

Information is currently being collected in relation to the policy, legal and operational framework as well as best practices for quality education undertaken or planned by Members. 



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