WMO overhauls data exchange policy

Congress approves sweeping initiatives to strengthen the international exchange of observations and other Earth system data

Geneva, 20 October 2021 (WMO) – The World Meteorological Congress has approved three sweeping initiatives to dramatically strengthen the world’s weather and climate services through a systematic increase in much-needed observational data and data products from across the globe.

“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. Today, 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,” said World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Prof. Taalas.

The three initiatives are known as the WMO Unified Data Policy, the Global Basic Observing Network, and the Systematic Observations Financing Facility. They have been painstakingly developed through extensive consultation with thousands of experts and other stakeholders around the globe to meet the explosive growth in demand for weather and climate data products and services from all sectors of society.

They were approved by the Extraordinary World Meteorological Congress taking place from 11 to 22 October. Congress earlier endorsed on a sweeping new strategy and plan of action for hydrology, a water declaration and the establishment of a new water and climate coalition.

“As the climate changes, the frequency 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.

The need for WMO action has been deepened by continued data gaps in data-sparse regions and lack of sustainable financing; by transformative changes in data, science, and technology; and by the rapid growth of private-sector capabilities and activities in meteorology.

WMO Unified Data Policy

Approval of the Unified Data Policy provides a comprehensive update of the policies guiding the international exchange of weather, climate and related Earth system data between the 193 Member states and territories of WMO. The new policy reaffirms the commitment to the free and unrestricted exchange of data, which has been the bedrock of WMO since it was established more than 70 years ago.

“The history of international data exchange is the history of WMO,” said Michel Jean, President of WMO’s Infrastructure Commission, which developed the unified data policy. He said that adoption of the resolution was a “great, historical decision.”

In addition, “with the Unified Data Policy, the WMO community is moving toward an integrated Earth system approach rather than talking about monitoring and predicting weather, climate, and water as separate issues,” said Mr. Jean.

To meet the growing need for better information and services, the new policy will encompass all WMO-relevant Earth system data – weather, climate, hydrology, ocean, atmospheric composition, cryosphere, and space weather.

This Earth-system approach will help the global community strengthen and better sustain all Earth system monitoring and prediction, with massive socioeconomic benefits as a result. It will lead to additional exchange of all types of environmental data, which in turn will enable all WMO Members to deliver better, more accurate and more timely weather- and climate-related services.

WMO President Gerhard Adrian commented that the new resolution would replace the “static, frozen system of data policy” and provide “the opportunity and obligation” to develop our international data exchange practices further to meet 21st century needs.

Earth system modelling capabilities are progressing rapidly, and the need for exchange of Earth system data will continue to grow. WMO’s unified data policy is therefore built around a modular approach that allows for incremental updates in the decades ahead.

Global Basic Observing Network

Over the last several decades, Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP), the practice of comprehensive computer-based model simulations of the atmosphere based on observational data, has emerged as the common foundation of all weather and climate services for nations big and small. Thus Members are increasingly depending on model data products provided by global and regional modelling and prediction centres. However, these centres and products are in turn completely reliant on consistent access to reliable observations from all states.

In response, the Global Basic Observing Network (GBON) represents a new approach in which the basic surface-based observing network needed to feed the NWP models with input data is designed, defined and monitored at the global level.

Once fully implemented, GBON will significantly increase the availability of the most essential surface-based data. This will have a direct positive impact on the quality of weather forecasts and information that will help to improve global public safety and well-being.

In order to reach this goal, additional investment and capacity development will be needed for many developing countries. WMO is working closely with the international development and climate finance communities to facilitate this.

Closing the GBON gap is highly economically efficient. According to an analysis undertaken jointly by the World Bank, WMO and the Met Office (UK), for every dollar invested at least twenty-six dollars in socio-economic return could be realized.

Systematic Observations Financing Facility

Many developing countries, especially in Africa and Small Island Developing States, continue to struggle with providing enough observational data to adequately support weather and climate services. These gaps in the observational system have a negative impact on accuracy of model products underpinning early warning services globally and especially in the data sparse regions.

Recognizing this, the global community under the leadership of WMO, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and partners in the Alliance for Hydromet Development are establishing the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF).

SOFF is a dedicated mechanism that will provide long-term grants and technical assistance, with a focus on Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries to enable sustained compliance with GBON regulations.

SOFF will (i) deploy a global approach with sustained international data exchange as a measure of success; (ii) provide long-term finance toward sustained data sharing results; (iii) enhance technical competency through peer-to-peer advisory, harnessing the operational experience of the most advanced national meteorological services around the globe; and (iv) leverage partners’ knowledge and resources.

SOFF will focus exclusively on the initial part of the meteorological value chain, which is the foundation for effective climate and resilient development action. SOFF will work in partnership with other partners that focus on other links in the chain to ensure that SOFF investments translate into climate adaptation benefits.

The creation of SOFF will be announced at the forthcoming UN Climate Change negotiations, COP26 and is envisaged to become operational by mid-2022.

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