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Fifty years ago ...
WMO Bulletin Vol. VI, No. 3July 1957
Contents in the July 1957 Bulletin covered technical assistance in meteorology, International Geophysical Year 1957-1958, upper-air programme on transient ships, monitoring the radioactive content of the atmosphere, UN Radio and the Technical Assistance Programme.
Technical assistance in meteorology
Birth of technical assistance
… a decisive turning point in the implementation of the technical assistance concept was the adoption by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in August 1949 of a resolution which recommended the introduction of what was called the [United Nations] Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance for Economic Development. Looking at this resolution in retrospect and in the light of the successful experience of its application in the eight years which have since elapsed, it becomes clear what a bold, far-sighted and well-conceived plan of action was established.
The primary object of the programme was to help the less developed countries “strengthen their national economies … with a view to promoting their economic and political independence” and to “ensure the attainment of higher levels of economic and social welfare for their populations”—an object which is in accord with the highest ideals and principles which are the raison d’être of the United Nations itself.
Turning now to the financial side, the Expanded Programme is financed by voluntary contributions from the Member States of the Untied Nations and a special account is maintained—separate from the general budgets of the United Nations and the specialized agencies. As an example of the scope of activities under the programme it may be mentioned that the funds pledged for 1957 amount to over US$ 30 million.
… the Technical Assistance Administration (TAA) is a department of the United Nations … which handles such forms of technical assistance as the United Nations itself—as opposed to the specialized agencies—may render … it has been agreed that all administrative and financial aspects of WMO’s activities in the Expanded Programme shall be handled by TAA … WMO deals with the scientific and technical aspects of meteorological technical assistance projects and TAA handles the administrative and financial aspects. …
Different forms of technical assistance
… provision for assistance … fall[s] basically into four categories—appointment of technical experts recruited on a worldwide basis, who undertake specific missions in the receiving countries; awards of fellowships and scholarships whereby selected persons from the receiving country may be trained in other countries where higher training facilities are available; purchase of equipment for demonstration purposes; and dissemination of knowledge and information by the holding of meetings and seminars.
… technical assistance work … can only be given at the specific request of a government and the initiative for inaugurating a technical assistance programme in any particular field rests with governments. The WMO Secretariat … [assists] in formulation requests for assistance and in arranging for their approval. …
… the technical Assistance Board (TAB) ... is responsible for the centralized coordination and planning of the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance. All specialized agencies of the United Nations participating in the programme and the TAA are represented … TAB maintains resident representatives in many countries to assist the respective governments in the administration of all technical assistance planned or in operation in the recipient countries. These officers are available to advise and assist the programmes of all specialized agencies and their services are of great value to WMO since WMO has no regional offices and visits to recipient countries by officers of the Secretariat are inevitably very limited.
Development of WMO programme
… the first WMO projects in this field were initiated in 1952, the year following WMO’s establishment … the programme for 1957 exceeds US$ 300000 … the projects involve expert missions to 20 counties, the award of 16 fellowships and one regional project in the form of a water resources raining seminar in Belgrade Yugoslavia … many meteorological problems are essentially regional in character and regional projects are thus a particularly appropriate form in which technical assistance can be rendered in meteorology …
In some countries where no Meteorological Service exists, WMO encourages the governments concerned to apply for an expert mission to assist in the establishment of the basic essentials of a Meteorological Service, including in particular a network of meteorological stations, properly equipped with instruments and manned by trained personnel …
In other countries, the basic requirements of a Meteorological Service may exist but little more … For example, a country with a Meteorological Service may not have given much attention to agricultural meteorology and one or more experts in this field may be sent to assist in the establishment of a suitable programme.
… quite highly developed Meteorological Services may wish to avail themselves of facilities in other countries to train their own experts in very specialized fields …
… There are many cases where technical assistance is given to one country in one field of meteorology while the same country is supplying experts in other fields to give assistance to other countries. There is thus no one-way traffic rule in the WMO technical assistance programme.
… the information available … shows that, were the financial resources available, the WMO programme could be doubled or even trebled. To prognosticate in financial matters is, however, a more difficult procedure than to prognosticate the weather. Suffice it to say that everything possible should be done to obtain the funds necessary to meet all the needs for meteorological technical assistance … experience has shown that, through this medium, WMO can do much to ensure the useful application of meteorological knowledge and techniques in many fields of national development and so to help in the fulfilment of many of the purposes laid down in its Convention.
International Geophysical Year 1957-1958
… Much publicity has been given to this great project, especially to those aspects—the satellite programme and the expeditions to the Antarctic—which appeal to the popular imagination, but little has been said about the less spectacular work which will be carried out at meteorological stations all over the world. As the meteorological observations will be much greater in number than the observations made in any other branch of geophysics during the IGY and will probably exceed the total of all the other disciplines put together, it is perhaps desirable to bring things back into perspective by calling attention to the routine work of the meteorological observer.
In what ways will the National Meteorological Services be contributing to the IGY programme? … they will be carrying out expanded programmes of observation; that is illustrated by the fact hat more than 300 additional upper-air ascents will be made each day during the IGY over the world as a whole. Several new stations will be established in isolated places, 22 in Antarctica alone. Many Services are also branching out into new types of observations, such as ozone and radiation; what optimist would have guessed that WMO would be able to publish a list of over 700 radiation stations for the IGY? … for the first time in history the meteorological data of the world will be published in a single convenient form for the use of the research worker … who will be expected to produce results to justify the efforts made on his behalf during the IGY be the meteorological observers, their parent Services and WMO.
IGY Meteorological Data Centre
The most important activity of the Centre at the moment is planning the layout and contents of the IGY microcards.
Forms containing the meteorological observations made during the trial period have now been received from 76 of the 94 Members of WMO …
One of the major lessons of the trial period was to emphasize the need for legibility and neatness in entering the observations on the forms. It may not always have been realized that the original forms will be photographed and will therefore become a permanent record of the work of each individual observing station …
World data centres
… Two centres are being established, Centre A in the USA and Centre B in the USSR, where data for all the IGY disciples will be collected. For each discipline there will in addition be one or more specialized centres, known collectively as Centre C, of which the IGY Meteorological data Centre in WMO is recognized as the only centre for meteorology …
There can be no doubt that these world data centres will play a vital role in facilitating the task of anybody wishing to obtain copies of any of the IGY observations. If they are successfully operated, there will probably be considerable pressure from the scientific world for some at least of the centres to be continued on a permanent basis …
… it seems appropriate to repeat the words of the President of WMO, Mr André Viaut “The next step, which is still more important, is to carry out the programme itself and for this I am sure that we can count on the continued collaboration of the Meteorological Services. The IGY represents the largest international research programme ever undertaken and is a challenge which I am confident will be taken up with enthusiasm by countless professional meteorologists and observers in every corner of the globe. There can be no doubt that the results of this enterprise will lead to a further significant advance in that science which is so dear to us all—meteorology.”
Upper-air programme on transient ships
The possibility of making radiosonde observations from merchant ships has been studied for a number of years by various Meteorological Services as a means of supplementing the observing programme of the ocean station vessels and as a possible method of securing additional upper-air data over the oceans at minimum cost. During 1950 and 1951, personnel of the United States Weather Bureau made several trial runs on transport vessels in the North Atlantic. These proved that, with sufficiently light radiosondes and a small balloon, it was possible to make successful launchings without interfering with the ship’s operation. In 1955, the first regular programme was started on the MSTS General Gaffey in the Pacific with two Weather Bureau observers making two daily radiosonde observations and four synoptic observations while the ship was at sea. Only three soundings were missed during 240 days at sea.
… a short programme was conducted aboard two freighters operating between the east coast of the United States and the island of Puerto Rico. Three ships plying the Gulf of Mexico were added to the programme during 1956; a tanker, an ore carrier and an oceanographic research vessel of Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College and the number of vessels participating in the Pacific was increased to a total of five, operating from the west coast of the Untied States to the Orient and to Alaska. A programme on the USNS Henry Gibbins, sailing alternately from New York to the Canal Zone and form New York to the Mediterranean was planned to begin in March 1957.
The vessels carry two Weather Bureau observers, who take two radiosonde observations and four surface synoptic observations daily. The lightweight radiosondes are carried on 300-g balloons to an average altitude of about 16000 m. Radiosondes are not released when the vessels are in territorial waters foreign to the United States and parachutes are used when a release is made within 100 miles of land. All observations are transmitted in WMO codes to the international data exchanges. So far it has not been found possible to devise a satisfactory, low-cost electronic method that can be employed on these ships for obtaining the winds aloft.
The US Weather Bureau would be very glad to correspond with other meteorological agencies interested in such programmes.
Monitoring the radioactive content of the atmosphere
…we often overlook the fact that we are constantly and permanently subjected to the influence of either cosmic radiation or natural radioactivity and that the effects of theses two phenomena are in no way harmful to our health.
… variations depend on several natural factors, in particular geographical position, weather conditions and sometimes the wind direction (especially in coastal areas).
The success of our work [at the aerological station of the Swiss Meteorological Institute] at Payerne and the results obtained lead us to hope for the establishment of a network of similar stations covering the entire world. The application of these measurements on a worldwide scale and at regular intervals, and using the same observational procedures would produce reliable scientific and statistical results which would be of undoubted value for synoptic meteorology in the proper sense of the term—it would provide us with information which would be extremely valuable in weather forecasting
News and notes
Membership of WMO
Ghana became a Member State of WMO on 5 June 1957.
Chile became a Member State of WMO on 8 June 1957.
WMO now had 96 Members: 74 States and 22 Territories.
Brussels International Exhibition 1958
The Universal and International Exhibition which would take place in Brussels, Belgium, from 3 April to 30 November 1958, would be the first world exhibition since 1939; 51 nations would be participating. In the international section there would be a pavilion of the United Nations and the specialized agencies including WMO, as well as pavilions of six other international organizations. Preparations for WMO’s part in the pavilion were already in an advanced state.
Metric units in meteorology
The arguments in favour of the use of metric units meteorological reports for international exchange were too well known to require repetition. …
The long history of this problem indicates that complete uniformity is not likely to be achieved quickly but since the above decision by Congress substantial progress has been made towards the desired end. In 1956 the WMO Secretariat addressed an inquiry to 29 Members known to be using the English units system, asking them to state their plans regarding the adoption of the metric system for coding their reports for international exchange. The replies showed that the Celsius temperature scale had been adopted for these purposes by 15 of the 29 countries and that metric units had been adopted in 13 of these countries. Some other countries indicated that the question was still under study.
Information has since been received from Japan that the metric system of units is now in use for all meteorological reports. More recently India has announced its intenti0on of using metric units not only for international reports but also in daily observational practice. This change-over is part of a plan to introduce metric measurements into all spheres of life in India and has been made earlier than anticipated in order to simplify the task of collating meteorological observations made during the International Geophysical Year.
These changes, together with the decision that Celsius degrees and metric units will be used for all meteorological reports made in Antarctica during the IGY, give welcome proof of the accelerating trend towards uniformity in meteorological practice throughout the world.
Excellence awards to Australian observing ships
… the Bureau of Meteorology ahs, this year, selected three ships for the Award in recognition of the high quality maintained in the making of observations and of the regularity in the furnishing of such reports.
Although the world fleets of selected ships have varied little over the past year or so it is pleasing to note that the number of reports received by the Australian Service for the year ending 30 June 195 showed an increase of approximately 19.5 per cent and this increase shows signs of being maintained for the current year. Such increases therefore can be attributed to a general increase in interest by ships’ observing personnel and to a greater regularity of reports taken and transmitted.
During the past whaling season the cooperation received from the Japanese whaling fleet was extremely good, the number of reports received showing a marked and very substantial increase over previous years. Another fruitful source of reports from Antarctic regions was through ships of various nationalities on voyages connected with the setting up of stations in Antarctica for the IGY.
Speed-up in Canadian meteorological communications
Vast distances, when coupled with the remote location of some stations, crate formidable problems in providing meteorological communications in Canada. Recently, when it was decided to increase the speed of the entire the teletype network from 60 to 75 words per minute, the best method of accomplishing this speed-up without causing serious delays in the transmission of weather reports was very carefully studied.
… On the day of the change-over, 30 March 1957, a servicing engineer was present at each of the 300 stations extending across Canada from Gander in Newfoundland to Victoria in British Columbia. In this way the change-over, which involved more than 1000 pieces of equipment and 30000 miles of teletype circuit, was successfully completed.
An even more significant advance in operating speeds was carried out on 23 April 1957 when the speed of the Canadian Weatherfax system was increased from 60 to 120 revolutions per minute.
Whilst it is too early to give final results, it can be said that the majority of stations are enjoying good reception. Charts examined at Vancouver, 3000 miles from the transmitting station at Montreal, reveal little or not ghosting and the loss of definition is minute. The few difficulties remaining at present are not insurmountable and there is good reason to think that the new speed of 12 rpm will become the permanent operating speed of the system.
News from the WMO Secretariat
Arrangements for the ninth session of the Executive Committee, which will open in the Palais des nations, Geneva, on 24 September 1957, are now well under way. The provisional agenda and an explanatory memorandum were recently distributed to members of the Committee and the working papers will follow as they are produced.
Amongst the reports submitted to the Executive committee will be those covering the second sessions of regional Association I and the Commissions for Maritime Meteorology, Climatology, Aerology and Instruments and Methods of Observations. The Committee will examine the progress achieved in various technical projects such as climatic atlases, the meteorological aspects of atomic energy, arid zone and humid tropics research and WMO’s participation in the water resource development programme. Particular attention will undoubtedly be given to the activities of the Organization in the field of technical assistance and the meteorological programme for the International Geophysical Year. The agenda also contains various procedural and administrative questions.
The Executive Committee will draw up the programme of the Organization for 1958 and adopt the annual budget to cover the implementation of this programme. If the Committee decides not to hold its tenth session until the autumn of 1958 it will be necessary for it to draw up the agenda and fix the date for Third Congress during the ninth session.
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