On World Meteorological Day, UN issues call for improved climate observations

25 March 2008 – The United Nations weather agency is marking World Meteorological Day by calling for improvements to climate observation technologies to help people and economies adapt to climate change, climate variability and extreme weather.

The Day – observed today in Geneva – commemorates the entry into force on 23 March 1950 of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Convention, and the following year WMO was designated a UN specialized agency.

It is also an occasion to “celebrate the achievements of our disciplines and where we highlight some key issues which we believe are very, very important,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud told the UN News Centre in an interview.

The theme of this year’s Day is “Observing our Planet for a Better Future,” highlighting the necessity of monitoring meteorological and hydrological phenomena to aid countries in their quest to achieve sustainable economic development.

Enhancing monitoring systems is essential because “you cannot make predictions without good observations,” Dr. Jarraud explained.

Natural disasters are increasingly impacting developing countries, WMO pointed out, with nine out of 10 of them being linked to hydrometeorological hazards – a phenomenon that has collectively caused 1.2 million deaths and $900 million in damage between 1980 and 2000.

The WMO Secretary-General urged developed nations to help poorer countries through the transfer of technology and providing access to satellite information. He also appealed for the “building of human capacity,” or training the next generation to operate sophisticated equipment.

Natural hazards cannot be prevented, but suitable early warnings based on better observations can help to significantly minimize their harmful effects, he said in a message commemorating the Day.

The number of vulnerable communities has been climbing in recent decades due to increased urbanization; population shifts into fragile areas such as coasts, lowlands and floodplains; and expansion into arid areas.

“The increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme events that is expected in association with climate change will further exacerbate their vulnerability,” Dr. Jarraud said. “Decision-makers and emergency response managers will therefore require more information to formulate the most appropriate contingency plans.”

Increasingly, information related to weather, climate and water is key to supporting agriculture, transport, energy production and water resource management, which can promote development, he added.

The Day will be marked in Geneva at WMO headquarters through addresses, films, a photo exhibition and an anthology of poems.


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