WMO Executive Council addresses challenges from weather, climate and water

The World Meteorological Organization’s Executive Council holds its annual session from 10 to 17 May, with a focus on strengthening weather and climate services to protect lives, property and the economy from increasingly extreme and unusual weather.
The outcomes of the Council will help shape the WMO contribution to global agenda on disaster risk reduction, sustainable development and climate change. There will be discussions on how to promote more coordinated investments in National Meteorological and Hydrological Services, as well as partnerships between public weather services and the private sector. There is a special dialogue on 11 May on meteorological services for the rapidly evolving aviation sector.
“Our collective efforts and the contributions of the whole WMO community will continue to enhance our ability to warn and inform our citizens of weather, climate and water risks to keep them safe from harm, minimize negative impacts on their property and allow our economies to prosper,” said WMO President David Grimes.
More coordination, higher profile
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas highlighted efforts to strengthen partnerships within the UN system on issues such as disaster risk reduction, food security, aviation and marine services. WMO is also seeking to meet the needs of development and humanitarian agencies for more information on El Niño and La Niña events and seasonal predictions, as well as warnings of extreme weather through a potential global MeteoAlarm system.
WMO is working with the World Bank and European Union and successfully mobilizing greater resources for initiatives like the Climate Risk Early Warning Systems and the Global Framework for Climate Services.
Mr Taalas said WMO will seek to increase the profile of its expertise on water and ocean affairs, bolster research and will continue to provide scientific advice on the state of the climate.
“We have seen a number of records broken in terms of temperatures and low Arctic and Antarctic sea ice. Sea level rise is accelerating,” he said. Atmospheric concentrations of gases continue to rise and recently reached more than 410 parts per million at the benchmark Global Atmosphere Watch observing station at Mauna Loa, he said.
“Besides temperatures, we also need to focus on rainfall issues,” Mr Taalas said, noting the severe drought in parts of Africa and Mongolia, as well as flooding in Colombia and Peru and, most recently, in Canada.
Extreme weather events are on the increase, he said. One the eve of the Executive Council session, Tropical Cyclone Donna reached the equivalent of category five status in the South Pacific – the strongest late forming cyclone on record in the region.
Year of Polar Prediction
One of the highlights of the EC meeting will be the launch of the Year of Polar Prediction – a coordinated international drive to improve predictions of weather, climate and ice conditions in the Arctic and Antarctic. The aim of the campaign is to minimize the environmental risks associated with rapid climate change in polar regions and to close the current gaps in polar forecasting capacity.
WMO has applied for observer status in the Arctic Council, which holds a ministerial session on 11 May. Finland is due to take over the presidency of this body from the USA and has indicated that one of the its priorities will be to enhance meteorological cooperation in the Arctic.
One of the priorities of WMO is to improve observations and understanding of Polar regions and high mountains, which are being particularly impacted by climate change and which have a sparse observation network.
The need to further strengthen global observing and information systems by leveraging satellite and computing advances is also on the agenda, as is capacity development of national meteorological and hydrological services in developing countries.
The Executive Council coordinates programmes, manages the budget, considers and acts on resolutions and recommendations from the regional associations and technical commissions, and studies and makes recommendations on matters affecting international meteorology and related activities. It consists of a president, three vice-presidents, the six regional association presidents and 27 directors of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services.