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Marine Meteorology Services

The long-term objectives of WMO Marine Meteorology and Oceanography Programme include, as a priority, enhancing the provision of marine meteorological and oceanographic services. The coordination of implementation and development is made through JCOMM, in support of:

  • the safety of life and property at sea and in coastal areas.
  • contribute to risk management for ocean-based economic, commercial and industrial activities.

  • contribute to the prevention and control of marine pollution, sustainable development of the marine environment, coastal area management and recreational activities, and in support of the safety of coastal habitation and activities.

  • contribute to coordinate and enhance the provision of the data, information, products and services required to support climate research and the detection and prediction of climate variability. 

In doing so, JCOMM promotes a state-of-the-art globally distributed and inter-connected system based on present and next-generation technologies and capabilities. The system is responsive to the evolving needs of all users of marine data and products and a close dialog with the user community is fundamental to the system design. In addition, JCOMM promotes the implementation of an outreach programme to enhance the national capacity of all maritime countries to work effectively for the maritime community and the management of the marine environment.

Responding to the decisions and requests of the WMO Members and IOC Membr States, contributing to the implementation of the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) for marine and coastal communities should be a high priority of JCOMM Services and Forecasting Systems Programme Area (SFSPA) for the intersessional period (2012-2017), along with fulfilling the core service mandates of JCOMM in providing maritime safety services as well as supporting marine and coastal emergency responses and risk reduction.


GMDSS and SOLAS - International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea

The basic concept of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) is that search and rescue authorities ashore, as well as shipping in the immediate vicinity of the ship in distress, will be rapidly alerted to a distress incident so they can assist in a co·ordinated search and rescue operation with the minimum of delay. The system also provides for urgency and safety communications and the dissemination of maritime safety information, including navigational and meteorological warnings. This means that every ship will be able, irrespective of the area in which it operates, to perform those communication functions considered essential for the safety of the ship itself and of other ships operating in the same area. 

The WMO Marine Programme coordinates the dissemination of warnings and weather and sea bulletins according to a broadcast schedule, in conformity with procedures laid down under the GMDSS protocols within SOLAS.

For broadcast purposes, the world's oceans are divided into a number of areas of responsibility called Metareas, each under the responsibility of a National Meteorological Service, as follows:

Metarea Responsible Services Metarea Responsible Services
I: United-Kingdom XI: China; Japan
II: France XII: USA
III: Greece; France XIII: Russian Federation
IV: USA XIV: New Zealand
V: Brazil XV: Chile
VI: Argentina XVI: USA
VII: South Africa XVII: Canada; USA
VIII-N: India XVIII: Canada; USA
VIII-S: Mauritius; France; Australia XIX: Norway; Denmark
IX: Pakistan XX: Russian Federation
X: Australia XXI: Russian Federation

The web site on marine weather information for GMDSS is supported and maintained by Météo France.

Manual on Marine Meteorological Services (WMO-No.558: http://www.jcomm.info/558).

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Coastal Hazards Forecasting

Coastal disasters are a major concern to socio-economic development in low-lying, highly-populated coastal areas; and the management of coastal disasters risk represents a great challenge to scientists and policy makers in Meteorology, Hydrology, Oceanography, Emergency Management and Coastal Planning. The JCOMM Expert Team on Waves and Coastal Forecasting Systems (ETWCH) develop technical advice and guidance on regional time operational forecast and service capabilities for coastal hazard forecasting, including that of storm surges, as part of marine multi-hazard warning systems.

For many storm surge warning and coastal management applications the Total Water Level (TWL) at a given location and time is extremely useful. TWL is the total water level elevation resulting from the combination of storm surge, high tide, wave setup, wave run-up, and for some regions, precipitation and river flow. Operational technologies cannot presently predict TWL precisely. In order to build improved operational forecasts and warnings capability for coastal inundation from combined extreme waves, surges and river flooding events, the WMO Coastal Inundation Forecasting Demonstration Project (CIFDP) was initiated jointly by JCOMM and WMO Commission for Hydrology (CHy). In the context of cross-cutting capacities, the project will support countries to establish collaboration and regular communication between scientists, forecasters, national meteorological/hydrological services and institutional end-users, to meet users' requirements and enhance response to coastal inundation risks.

In view of supporting research and development for improved service delivery for coastal communities, JCOMM-ETWCH has established collaborating arrangements with the European Space Agency (ESA) in support of improved storm surge forecasting through the Earth Observation information. The ESA Storm Surge Project (eSurge)  is designed to develop a comprehensive database and user tools for storm surge events, supporting satellite data and model outputs that can be used to enhance storm surge analysis and forecasting. The ETWCH also plays key advisory role in various research/development projects and programmes, to extend efforts to enhance national capabilities for storm surge forecasting and warning.

Guide to Storm Surge Forecasting (WMO-No.1076, http://www.jcomm.info/SSGuide).

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JCOMM Expert Team on Waves and Coastal Forecasting Systems (ETWCH), with the support of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) coordinates the Operational Wave Forecast Verification Scheme. A routine inter-comparison of wave model forecast verification data was first established in 1995 to provide a mechanism for benchmarking and assuring the quality of wave forecast model products that contribute to applications, such as safety of life at sea, ship routing, and, in general, the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System GMDSS. A Technical Report was produced on this activity in early 2006 [JCOMM Technical Report No. 30].

The project now includes 17 centres (as of 2012), many running global wave forecast systems, with different wave models, different wind forcing, and different model configurations, and the goal is to continue to add new participants, including regional participants, and to expand the scope of the intercomparison as feasible.

It is recognized that centres engaged in wave forecasting benefit from this activity in the same way as weather centres benefit from the exchange of forecast verification scores.

Centres that intend to participate in the verification activities, as well as those who wish to get further information on the activity, are invited to contact Dr Jean-Raymond Bidlot (ECMWF, member of ETWCH).

Guide to Wave Analysis and Forecasting (WMO-No.702:http://www.jcomm.info/WaveGuide).

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Operational oceanography, in a similar context to operational meteorology, is now a reality, with ocean observational data being collected, transmitted and assimilated in near real time into ocean prediction models, to provide operational ocean products to a wide range of applications, including enhanced weather and climate predictions, marine safety, efficiency and environmental protection services. 

The Expert Team on Operational Ocean Forecasting Systems (ETOOFS) is established in 2007 to coordinate the efficient transition of mature ocean forecasting systems, developed and refined under the Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment (GODAE) to an operational environment, through facilitating and standardizing their operational implementation. The Guide to Operational Oceanographic Forecasting Systems is being developed by ETOOFS with the objective of documenting the current practices for ocean forecasting, in order to: (a) provide existing centres with alternative approaches to promote discussion on the best practice; and (b) serve as an aid for developing centres.

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Navigation in ice-frequented waters for the purpose of trade and commerce, fishing, exploration or research has always been a rather hazardous operation. For this reason, national sea-ice information services have been established in many countries to provide support for such operations, through the provision of both climatological and real-time ice analyses and forecasts. International coordination and cooperation in this activity is essential and WMO assists in effecting this coordination, principally through the JCOMM Expert Team on Sea Ice (ETSI) and through the DBCP, including its action groups the International Arctic Buoy Programme (IABP) and the International Programme for Antarctic Buoys (IPAB). 

For information on the Sea Ice Services please consult the WMO publication no. 574 : Sea-Ice Information Services in the World (PDF)

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