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World Meteorological Day 2018 encourages weather-ready, climate-smart societies

By Ashley Williams, AccuWeather staff writer
March 23, 2018, 8:00:07 AM EDT

Recognized annually on March 23, World Meteorological Day commemorates the establishment of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on this date in 1950. The day showcases the essential contribution of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services to the safety and well-being of society.

Since 1961, the WMO has celebrated the day with a different theme each year. World Meteorological Day 2018’s theme, “weather-ready, climate-smart,” aims to highlight the importance of preparing for weather events and hazards as well as being knowledgeable about naturally occurring climate variability and long-term climate change.

From notifying the public about whether they should bring umbrellas, to whether people should seek shelter or evacuate from a major storm and when they might want to plant crops, national meteorological services play a large role in helping people make informed decisions.

Clouds - Pexels image

This explains why the 2018 theme was selected, according to the WMO.

“Now more than ever, we need to be weather-ready, climate-smart and water-wise,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“This is because the ever-growing global population faces a wide range of hazards such as tropical cyclone storm surges, heavy rains, heat waves, droughts and many more,” Taalas said.

Long-term climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather and climate events, resulting in rising sea levels and ocean acidification, according to Taalas. "Urbanization and the spread of mega-cities means that more of us are exposed and vulnerable,” he added.

Becoming weather-ready in the face of natural disasters

Early warning systems and other disaster risk reduction measures are essential for boosting resilience in communities, according to the WMO, and a top priority of the WMO remains protecting lives and property from weather-, climate- and water event-related risks.

The WMO attributes the dramatic reduction in severe weather-linked deaths over the past 30 years to a significant increase in the accuracy of weather forecasting and warnings, as well as improved coordination with disaster management authorities.

However, according to Taalas, there’s an increasing shift of focus solely from what the weather forecasts will be, to paying additional attention to what the weather will do.

“WMO is therefore working to establish a global and standardized multi-hazard alert system in collaboration with National Meteorological and Hydrological Services worldwide,” Taalas said.

AccuWeather has continued its role in informing the public and keeping them safe through its year-round AccuWeather Ready initiative, which features personalized weather preparedness plans, tailored emergency kits, educational weather news and a toolkit with actionable safety tips.

“[We] take our commitment to delivering life-saving information to people in need even further with AccuWeather Ready, to educate and inform people with new weather preparedness updates and tools when it matters the most, personalizing the weather so people can improve their lives,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist and Product Manager Becky DePodwin.

Previous World Meteorological Day themes - Infographic

Climate-smart societies

“In the past quarter of a century, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have risen from 360 parts per million to more than 400 parts per million,” said Taalas. “They will remain above that level for generations to come, committing our planet to a warmer future with more weather, climate and water extremes.”

Following a year of deadly and severe weather, unusual warmth and droughts, educating as much of the public as possible about climate change’s potential impacts is critical, said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson.

“In climate-smart societies, there’s a better exchange of critical information about the potential impacts of climate change on things such as agriculture, [which is affected by] drought and extreme rainfall, and coastal inundation due to sea level rise,” Anderson said.

Climate data is often of poor quality in developing countries, according to the WMO, and doesn’t meet the prerequisites for the provision of climate services for decision-makers.

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The WMO says its projects are restructuring science curricula to align with current and future needs of those regions. Part of that includes coming up with more effective communication channels so that decision-makers, including farmers, politicians and health and water professionals, have access to the climate services they need.

Water-wise communities

World Meteorological Day 2018 also recognizes the need to foster water-conscious communities, as climate change and urbanization lead to an increase in droughts and floods, which are the most common natural disasters.

The number of people at risk from floods is projected to rise from 1.2 billion today to around 1.6 billion in 2050, which is nearly 20 percent of the world’s population, according to the United Nations World Water Development Report.

The availability of early warning information and products as well as integration of land use, water resources and risk management in river basins is essential to helping minimize loss of life and impact on economies, according to the WMO.

The Organization says that to make this happen, data is needed on all water resources, including their quantities and quality, how variable they are and how they will evolve in the foreseeable future.

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