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World Meteorological Congress approves sweeping reforms

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World Meteorological Organization
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is an intergovernmental organization with a membership of 192 Member States and Territories. The World Meteorological Organization is the U.N.'s authoritative voice on weather.


  • World Meteorological Congress approves sweeping reforms

The World Meteorological Congress has approved a package of sweeping reforms to embrace a more comprehensive Earth system approach, with a stronger focus on water resources and the ocean, more coordinated climate activities and a more concerted effort to translate science into services for society. It paved the way for greater engagement with the rapidly growing private sector and more structured collaboration with development agencies.

The governance structure of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) will be overhauled to ensure that it is better equipped to tackle mounting challenges such as climate change, extreme weather, environmental degradation and urbanization, whilst harnessing technological advances from satellites, supercomputing and big data. It seeks to narrow the growing capacity gap between rich and poor and to channel more resources to WMO’s regional operations.

“The World Meteorological Organization is needed more than ever,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, who was re-appointed for an additional four-year term in office.

“Climate change is major issue for welfare of mankind this century and for the coming centuries. WMO supports climate change mitigation by providing scientific facts based on measurements and model calculations for decision makers. WMO plays a major role in climate adaptation through multi-hazard early warning services. WMO serves as a platform to transfer know-how from developed meteorological and hydrological services to less developed ones,” he said.

“Congress has endorsed a new concept for WMO and now it is our job to get it up and running,” said Mr Taalas.

At its quadrennial session which ended 14 June, the congress elected Gerhard Adrian of Germany as WMO President, along with other office holders and members of the Executive Committee. It approved a 2 percent increase in WMO’s regular budget, to 271,544,400 Swiss francs for the four-year period 2020-2023.

“The WMO sets the framework for the successful cooperation of its Member States to accomplish their tasks for the well-being of societies. Fulfilling this important duty is based on the global meteorological infrastructurecoordinated by WMO,” said Mr Adrian.

“My aim is that this infrastructure as well as the indispensable global exchange of data are improved even further and guaranteed into the future. It is our collective responsibility and my main interest to strengthen the WMO,” he said.

The Congress approved a new WMO strategic plan to achieve its overarching vision: “By 2030, a world where all nations, especially the most vulnerable, are more resilient to the socioeconomic impact of extreme weather, water, climate and other environmental events; and empowered to boost their sustainable development through the best possible services, whether over land, at sea or in the air.”

The strategic plan sets five long term goals and top overarching priorities including:

  • Enhancing preparedness for, and reducing losses of life and property from hydrometeorological extremes,
  • Supporting climate-smart decision making to build resilience and adaptation to climate risk,
  •  Enhancing socioeconomic value of weather, climate, hydrological and related environmental services

The new governance structure is aligned to the strategic plan. Under the approved reforms, WMO’s different technical commissions will be replaced by two more coordinated commissions to streamline work and maximize impact.

The Commission for Observation, Infrastructure and Information Systems (Infrastructure Commission) will contribute to the development and implementation of globally coordinated systems for acquiring, processing, transmitting and disseminating Earth system observations, and related standards; coordination of the production and use of standardized analysis and model forecast fields; and development and implementation of sound data and information management practices for all WMO Programmes and their associated application and services areas. Michel Jean of Canada was elected president of the commission.

The Commission for Weather, Climate, Water and Related Environmental Services and Applications (Applications Commission). This shall contribute to the development and implementation of globally harmonized weather, climate, water, ocean and environment related services and applications to enable informed decision making and realization of socioeconomic benefits by all user communities and society as a whole. Ian Lisk of the United Kingdom was elected president.

The Research Board on Weather, Climate, Water and the Environment will translate the strategic aims of WMO and decisions of the Council and Congress into overarching research priorities, and ensures the implementation and coordination of the research programmes to achieve these priorities.

The Joint WMO-UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) Collaborative Board will coordinate the collaborative development, integration and implementation of the activities related to oceanographic and meteorological observation, data and information management, services, modelling and forecasting systems as well as research and capacity development.

The Scientific Advisory Panel shall draw up opinions and recommendations to Congress and to the Executive Council on matters concerning WMO research strategies and the optimal scientific directions to support the evolution of its mandate in weather, climate, water and related environmental and social sciences.

A Hydrological Assembly, which took place during Congress, will become a regular event. WMO will give greater priority to strengthening operational hydrological services and to improve monitoring and forecasting.  This is key to tackle issues of too much, too little or too polluted water and supports operational management, planning and decision support.

The reform aims to coordinate systems of observation and data management, to standardize observations and measurements, to provide mechanisms for engaging with partners beyond the WMO community and to harmonize services for decision-making and socioeconomic benefits.

The potential benefits of the WMO reform process include:

  • Earth system approach embracing meteorology, climatology, hydrology, oceanography, seismology, volcanology, air quality, greenhouse gases
  •  Multi-hazard and impact based seamless services covering weather, climate, water, aviation, marine, agriculture, urban, energy, health
  •  Wide climate perspective which coordinate observations, services, science, mitigation and adaptation
  • Closer involvement of hydrological services in WMO activities and weather-water synergies
  • Organized and controlled engagement of private sector in WMO activities
  • Optimal use of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and Secretariat resources, thus providing more support for regional activities

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