A historic World Meteorological Congress has concluded with landmark resolutions to prioritize water and to dramatically strengthen the world’s weather and climate services through a systematic increase in exchange of observational data and data products.
The WMO Unified Data Policy, the Global Basic Observing Network, and the Systematic Observations Financing Facility were painstakingly developed through extensive consultation with thousands of experts and other stakeholders around the globe. The aim is to meet the explosive growth in demand for weather and climate data products and services, to fill gaps in the global observing system and ensure more sustainable financing.
Congress also endorsed a sweeping new strategy and plan of action for hydrology, a water declaration and the establishment of a new water and climate coalition.
Major reforms of WMO’s constituent bodies and the secretariat paved the way for the ground-breaking decisions at Extraordinary Congress, the first one to be held virtually.
WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas said the reforms and the Congress decisions meant that WMO was better equipped than ever to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
“As the climate changes, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events is increasing. The growing vulnerability of people living in high-risk areas, and concerns about issues such as food security, are contributing to a huge increase in demand for information about weather, climate and water and their impacts,” said Prof. Taalas.
Congress also endorsed a sweeping new strategy and plan of action for hydrology, a water declaration and the establishment of a new water and climate coalition
“The global nature of the climate system means that successful weather and climate services are completely dependent upon continued access to observational data from around the globe, exchanged internationally. Our 193 Members together have ensured that these services will have access to enough of this vital data to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” he said.
“The WMO reform, implemented after the last Congress in 2019 aiming at accelerating decision making by harmonizing the meeting schedule and increasing the frequency of sessions, has proven its efficiency in the preparation of this extraordinary Congress and the resolutions on the WMO unified data policy, Hydrology in the 21st century, regional reform, the Water Declaration, SOFF as well as GBON,” said WMO President Gerhard Adrian.
“It is now our common task to implement these important decisions nationally," he said.
The Unified Data Policy will enhance the free and unrestricted quantity and quality of Earth System data. The new data policy will enhance the socio-economic value of weather, climate and hydrological services considerably. The previous data policy from 1995 was outdated, and did not take into account the modern ground-based, balloon borne, satellite, radar and aircraft observing systems.
The Global Basic Observing Network: A Congress resolution passed a new standard for the Global Basic Observation Network (GBON), which is the backbone of weather, climate and hydrological services.
This standard helps to identify and address the major gaps in the basic observing systems (notably in Africa, Pacific and Caribbean Islands as well as in some parts of Latin America). It is expected to lead to enhancement of the global real-time weather observing system, which is critical for disaster risk reduction and services related to public safety, agriculture, aviation, marine and ground transportation, infrastructure and businesses.
The Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF) is a new financing mechanism to support the establishment and maintenance of additional stations in less developed and small island developing states, where data gaps are having a major negative impact on the accuracy of weather and climate services. Additional investments by developed countries will enhance the accuracy of weather forecasts worldwide.
The Water and Climate Coalition: The impacts of climate change are to a large degree felt through flooding and drought events as well as lack of freshwater due to melting of glaciers and enhanced evaporation caused by warming.
The Water and Climate Coalition embraces UN organizations, governments, corporations and civil society for accelerated implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal 6 by enhancing hydrological observation systems and water services.
Congress also endorsed a sweeping new strategy and plan of action for hydrology.
Reform of the WMO regional activities : Up to half of the WMO Members are lacking proper weather, climate and hydrological services, which is an obstacle to development.
It has been estimated that 10 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are affected by growing amount of flooding, drought, heat waves, storms, sea level rise and melting of glaciers. Congress agreed to pay special attention to early warning and observation system capacity development in the regional activities of WMO.
The secretariat reform has already increased relevant staff resources to all of the Regional Offices to boost capacity.
Success despite COVID-19: WMO has been able to implement its historical reforms despite of the Covid-19 pandemic. All WMO meetings since spring 2020 have been virtual with record amount of participants. More than 700 participants attended the Extraordinary Congress.
Congress passed a resolution on a more structured WMO response to global crises - ensuring continuity of observations, operations and essential services through technical support and funding mechanisms.
Congress decided to “review principles and approaches related to Members’ business continuity and contingency planning to maintain their essential operations, which are partly supported by regionally and globally coordinated networks and services.”