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Fifty years ago ...

From WMO Bulletin 4 (3), July 1955

The July 1955 Bulletin had 36 pages, of which 11 were devoted to a report of Second World Meteorological Congress and six to technical assistance activities.

Feature articles focused on the Meteorological Service of Viet Nam and the Technical Assistance Programme in meteorology in Yugoslavia. 





Highlights from the report of Second Congress 

Geneva has witnessed many international meetings during recent years, but rarely, if ever, have representatives from so many different nations gathered together as at the second World Meteorological Congress, which was held in the Palais des Nations from 14 April to 13 May 1955 under the presidency of Dr F.W. Reichelderfer. Delegates from no fewer than 80 members of WMO were present, and there were in addition representatives from 5 non-Member countries. 

The President spoke of the recent advances in meteorology, made in spite of the inherent difficulties of a science in which an exact mathematical treatment was impossible and in which it was impracticable to measure directly many of the important elements. The research towards prediction of the weather by numerical process had brought preliminary results of great interest to the weather forecaster, but the work was handicapped by inadequate upper air soundings in some regions this was the kind of deficiency which WMO might help to overcome by promoting cooperation among the national meteorological services. The International Geophysical Year would provide an unprecedented opportunity for the meteorologist to obtain data to fill some of the most serious gaps in his knowledge of the behaviour of the atmosphere as a whole. 

After reminding delegates that the success of international cooperation in meteorologyone if the most vital sciences in the service of mankindin the next four years depended on their foresight and decisions, the President referred to the need for achieving a balance between speed in executive action and obtaining solutions to scientific problems which were sound and would stand the test of time. In this connection it was encouraging to know that suggestions had been made for overcoming some of the difficulties which had been experienced in the machinery of the technical commissions and expert working groups. 

Congress reviewed the general policy with regard to publications and made several decisions concerning individual projects. The only major change with regard to existing publications referred to Executive Committee resolutions; here it was decided that any recommendations of other constituent bodies which are an essential part of the resolution should be published with the resolution. The effect of this change is that the relevant recommendations of regional associations and technical commissions will in future be published in all four official languages whereas hitherto they have only been published in the two working languages. 

Water resource development 

WMO had been urged by the Untied Nations and other specialized agencies to assume responsibility within the UN family for promoting the collection of hydrological data and for standardizing procedures in certain aspects of hydrological observations. Following an enquiry addressed to Members, the Secretary-General submitted to Congress a document containing proposals on the policy, principles and future programme of WMO in regard to water resource development. 

The importance of the role which meteorology can play in many fields related to water resource development was recognized by Congress; the valuable assistance which can be given by meteorological services in forecasting floods caused by heavy rains and by melting snow was particularly stressed.  Congress decided that WMO should accept the responsibility of being recognized as the specialized agency of the United Nations dealing with those aspects of the UN water resource development programme which fall within the common ground between meteorology and hydrology. The Executive Committee was directed to prepare a WMO programme calculated to meet the needs of the United Nations and specialized agencies to assist Members within this field. At the same time it was recommended that Members which do not have a centralized hydrometeorological service should take any necessary steps to ensure close collaboration between their departments charged with meteorological and hydrological functions. 


A growing need has been felt for a central body to be responsible for looking after the interests of meteorology in the field of telecommunications. The proposal by the Executive Committee that the task should be given to the Technical Division of the Secretariat was accepted by Congress. The work will consist of studying the present worldwide network of meteorological transmissions with a view to determining the deficiencies and taking steps for their removal. Assistance will also be given to WMO working groups on telecommunications and close contact will be maintained with the International Telecommunications Union by participating in the activities of the relevant study groups. 


The possibility of achieving worldwide uniformity with regard to the units used in coded meteorological messages for international exchange was the subject of a lengthy debate it was realized that it would not be practicable to try to force the introduction of any particular system of units in the immediate future Congress unanimously decided to take an important step in this direction by adopting in principle the Celsius degree and the metric system for the evaluation of meteorological elements included in reports for international exchange. Members who do not use these units for their observation were requested to consider the possibility of fixing a time-limit for introducing them in reports for international exchange. 

Meteorological films 

It was decided that the Secretariat should organize an international loan service for meteorological films and maintain an up-to-date list of meteorological films. 

The Secretariat 

the maximum establishment of 68 staff members was approved for the WMO Secretariat during the second financial period In the Technical Division there will be an additional officer to look after telecommunication problems and 8 technical assistants to assist technical officers in carrying out the routine work of the Technical Division In the Administrative Division a maximum of five translators will be employed and provision has been made for a number of extra secretaries and typists to assist in providing annual leave relief throughout he Secretariat. 

To bring the grades of the various posts more into line with the equivalent grades in the United Nations, a number of posts were upgraded. The maximum number of posts in the professional category was increased from 9 to 19, with an increase of 5 in both the Technical and Administrative Divisions. 

Secretariat building 

Since its transfer to Geneva in December 1951, the secretariat has been housed in a temporary building near the Palais des Nations. Congress had before it proposals for a permanent building both from the United Nations and from the Canton of Geneva ... In view of the urgent need for additional accommodation, funds were provided for the renting of extra offices to be used until a permanent headquarters building is available. 


Congress decided that the maximum expenditure for the second financial period should be US$ 1 700 000. 

Officers of the Organization 

The following officers were elected: 

President A. Viaut

Fist Vice-President  - M.A.F. Barnett

Second Vice-resident H. Amorim Ferreira

Elected members L. de Azcrraaga, A. Nyberg, F.W. Reichelderfer, A.A. Solotoukhine, Ssir Graham Sutton, M.F. Taha.

Mr D.A. Davies, Director of the British East African Meteorological Service, was appointed Secretary-General to succeed Dr G. Swoboda who had been holding the post in an acting capacity since reaching the normal age of retirement in September 1953.

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