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Fifty years ago ...

From WMO Bulletin 4 (4), October 1955





The main feature of the October 1955 Bulletin on follow-up to Second Congress was covered in the October 2005 issue of MeteoWorld. 



Jordan became the 91st Member of WMO on 10 August 1955. 

News from the Secretariat 

On 14 August 1955, Dr Gustav Swoboda retired from the WMO Secretariat. He had been appointed Secretary-General of WMO at First World Meteorological Congress in 1951. He had reached the normal retiring age in September 1952 and had held the post since in an acting capacity. Dr Swoboda became Chief of the Secretariat of the International Meteorological Organization in 1938. One of his first duties had been to plan and supervise the transfer of the IMO headquarters from De Bilt in The Netherlands to Lausanne in Switzerland. 

On 1 August 1955, Mr D.A. Davies took up his appointment as Secretary-General. Mr Davies was formerly the Director of the East African Meteorological Department and in 1951 was elected president of Regional Association I, in which capacity he served as a member of the WMO Executive Committee. His successor as president of RA I is Mr J. Ravet, Director of the Meteorological Service of Madagascar.   

Dr G. Swoboda
(Switzerland) (1951-1955)


Dr D.A. Davies
(UK) (1955-1979)



The British Broadcasting Corporation is engaged in preparing a 45-minute film for use in television to illustrate the regular and the technical assistance work of the Organization. Sequences have already been filmed in Libya and a film unit was also despatched to Jordan and Israel. The film … will be used by the BBC in its television series “The World is ours”. It will also be made available to other European television networks and to WMO for its own needs. 

Some film producers and film units in the USA have also shown an interest and are at present studying plans for 20-minute documentary films about international meteorology. 

Visits of technical assistance experts and other WMO officers to the Secretariat have provided an opportunity for recorded interviews which are used by French and English speaking broadcasting networks in Europe and in North and South America. 

The increased interest of non-meteorological authorities in the Organization’s programme and activities is also shown by the number of invitations to meetings of other international organizations received by the Secretariat. For the month of September alone, the Organization received invitations to 15 international meetings, 11 of which were accepted. 

Technical Division 

Presidents of regional associations and technical commissions have been requested to give urgent attention to the question of the final disposal of the remaining resolutions of the former IMO and it is hoped that this matter can be settled at the eighth session of the Executive Committee in 1957. 

The following experts have agreed to serve on the Working Group on Climatological Atlases: Dr C.W. Thornthwaite, Dr. A.K. Ångström, Prof. Kenneth Hare, Dr S.P. Jackson and Dr N. Rosenan. 

A meeting was held in Geneva on 5 and 6 September between Prof Van Mieghem and members of the Secretariat to discuss various questions in connection with the International Geophysical Year 1957/58. The final text of the meteorological programme for the IGY will be communicated to Members with the least possible delay. 

… concerning differences in route winds determined by different meteorological offices, the Secretariat has taken steps to collect he necessary documentation, in particular, reports in preparation or already published on this question, as well as descriptions of the methods used for analysing upper-air charts and for preparing forecast charts. 


The Cloud Atlas

W. Bleeker, president of the Commission for Synoptic Meteorology (CSM) wrote: 

... it was in 1947 that the Washington Conference of Directors of the IMO charged a small group under the leadership of Mr Viaut to prepare a revised ad up to date version of the International Atlas of Clouds and Types of Skies. The decision to make a new atlas was inspired by the depletion of the stocks of the previous edition of 1939 and furthermore by the development of knowledge concerning clouds and hydrometeors, by the modifications in the international cloud codes and by the improvements in the techniques of colour photography and reproduction. 

The working group held six meetings. Thorough discussions in the field of cloud classification led to definite improvements and to certain innovations. Species and varieties were extended and modified.   The so-called accidental details found a better place in our system; they are re-named supplementary features and accessory clouds. We became more aware of transformation processes taking place in the various genera and the concept of mother cloud was introduced. 

When the text of the previous cloud atlas was written, very few meteorologists had ever seen clouds from above. Now almost everyone has an intimate knowledge of clouds encountered in the upper air. A full chapter could therefore be added, describing the particular appearance presented by clouds when observe from aircraft. And there were no difficulties in finding photographic specimens to demonstrate to aviators how they should interpret various code figures. 

Elaborate instructions are also given to surface observers, who may find the new pictorial guides for the coding of low, medium and high cloud very handy. For those who wish to collect scientific information about the evolution of the sky or who want to make cloud observing an interesting hobby, two models of a Journal of Clouds and Hydrometeors have been added. 

The former classification of hydrometeors has been replaced by a classification of meteors, in which the hydrometeors occupy only one group, the aqueous meteors. 

An Abridged Atlas, consisting of a condensed text and a selection of photographs will serve the daily practical needs of surface observes and an Album consisting of a limited number of photographs will be of special interest to observers in aircraft. 

It must be remarked that the President of the CSM, who collaborated closely with the Secretariat during the last phases of the project, had never realized that he would learn so much about the literary problems still to be solved in order to make the English and French texts to the Cloud Atlas parallel! 

Water resource development 

… only a small fraction of the available water resources of the world is fully exploited. In India, for example, it has been estimated … that less than 6 per cent of the total runoff is used; it is hoped to increase this fraction to over 20 per cent. In many other parts of the world similar plans are being developed for making better use of water supplies, the problem being most vital of course in the semi-arid areas. 

Whereas in the past, most of the big projects in river-basin development were for single purposes, one of the most important of which is flood control, it is now realized that to achieve a really successful result multi-purpose planning is usually essential. There are close relationships between various types of water problems; before deciding to go ahead with a hydro-electric scheme, for example, it is desirable to consider its repercussions on the actual and potential uses of the water, such as irrigation, municipal water supplies and disposal of sewage and industrial waste. 

… close collaboration between all interested parties is necessary for this type of work [who] must get together to work out plans for river development which will lead to the maximum benefit of the community. Here is one way in which the meteorologist—and especially the hydrometeorologist—can help. He can apply his knowledge and skill to provide some of the figures needed by the planners—the average precipitation and its variability over the river basin, evaporation losses from lakes and reservoirs, the maximum precipitation likely to be encountered in a severe storm, etc. It frequently happens that the available meteorological and hydrological data are inadequate for really accurate estimates of the above quantities to be made, in which case it is all the more important that the meteorologist should be consulted. By comparison with regions of similar climate where more data are available, he can often make intelligent guesses, which may result in savings of considerable sums of money. 

An enquiry carried out by the WMO Secretariat had shown that in most countries there is no central body for hydrological activities; there are probably very few countries which have a really comprehensive national plan for water. 

The tasks for meteorologists in this field include assistance in the provision of flood forecasts. There have been instances where there was no clear division of responsibility in this work and where the need for action was only fully appreciated after a major flood disaster had caught people unawares. Flood forecasting has important international aspects, especially where a rive flows through several different countries. Under the WMO, meteorological data are exchanged regularly between the nations of the world. There are of course many cases where the observations of streamflow and river stage are exchanged by bilateral agreements, but as yet there does not appear to be a universally adopted scheme to ensure that this hydrological information is made readily available to all interested. 

There is a great shortage of trained hydrologists and of meteorologists with hydrological experience in the world. One of the most vital ways in which WMO can assist counties in their water programmes may be to provide expert advice and training facilities under the expanded Programme of Technical Assistance. 

As civilization advances and populations increase, the demands for water supplies for domestic and industrial consumption, for irrigation and for power generation will become greater. Mankind will no longer be able to afford to waste a large part of his reserves of this raw material, especially when this waste takes the form of disastrous floods which are reported almost daily from one part of the world or another. Meteorologists can play an important part in tackling these problems and the WMO will do what it can to ensure that meteorological knowledge is applied to the greatest possible extent in this vital work.  

Humid tropics research


By decision of Second Congress, WMO collaborated with UNESCO in a programme for the humid tropics. 

In addition to basic studies, such as the density of observing networks, the adequacy of instruments and methods of observation and the suitability of analysis and forecasting techniques, the investigation of the hydrologic balance of the climate (to tell whether a climate is moist or humid, one must know whether precipitation is greater or less than the water needed for evaporation and transpiration) deserves particular consideration. There will also be problems of applied meteorology in connection with public health, human labour, human dwellings and clothing, deterioration of materials, etc. 

Readers of the Bulletin will be kept informed of developments in the humid tropics programme, which holds great promise for the improvement of the living conditions of mankind.












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