Working Together to Weather Future Storms

hydromet-feature-imageSTORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Meteorological and hydrological services – hydromet – play a vital role in mitigating the impacts of weather and climate extremes
  • Hydromet is not only about early warning systems, but also giving countries, regions, communities, and individuals weather information and reliable predictions to make informed decisions for many sectors of the economy – from agriculture to logistics to hydropower, and many more
  • The World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) are supporting efforts to strengthen collaboration in global weather monitoring across the public and private sectors

At 2:00 pm on August 31, 2017, the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, logged a tropical wave – an area of atmospheric low pressure – over the far eastern Atlantic, moving westward at 15 miles per hour.

More than a week would pass before what became Hurricane Jose would threaten to make landfall in Barbuda. By then, there was no one on the island: the residents, recently shattered by Hurricane Irma, had all been evacuated in advance of Jose.

The evacuation was possible because decision-makers had advanced warning, in the form of detailed forecast information about the path and strength of the hurricane.

“Access to accurate, reliable, and timely weather information depends on a global network of institutions that observe and forecast the earth system. The information from these meteorological and hydrological services, or hydromet, can help national economies, businesses, and communities make informed decisions to protect their economic interests – and, at times, their lives. “
Sameh Wahba
World Bank Director of Urban Development and Disaster Risk Management

Recognizing the vital role played by hydromet services in mitigating the impacts of weather and climate extremes, as well as providing information and reliable predictions to make informed decisions for many sectors of the economy, the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) have for the past decade invested in strengthening client countries’ National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs).

For instance, in Myanmar, GFDRR helped design a $30 million component of the Ayeyarwady Integrated River Basin Management Project, which could save more than $8 million a year in damages and produce up to $200 million in improved economic productivity. The project aims to modernize early warning systems with the latest forecasting and communications technology, and assist with training programs for Myanmar’s hydromet agency.

In Myanmar, modernization of the country’s hydro-meteorological observation and warning systems will help protect the lives and livelihoods of those living in areas affected by drought, floods and storms. (Markus Kostner/World Bank)

In Pakistan, the World Bank and GFDRR, supported by technical specialists from the World Meteorological Organization, are working alongside the government in developing a $200 million project for stronger hydromet and climate services and disaster risk management. The country faces a full range of hydro-meteorological hazards, which is why its ability to deliver reliable and timely weather, hydrological, and climate information and services to the public and key economic sectors is of utmost importance.

Today, however, the production of weather and climate information is a shared endeavour between the public and private sectors, with the capabilities of the private sector matching – and sometimes exceeding – those of their public-sector counterparts in NMHSs.

However, public investment in many countries is under increasing pressure, contributing to tensions between the public and private service providers. The challenge is most acute in middle- and low- income countries, where the private sector sees new opportunities to support economic development, and where NMHSs are arguably the weakest.

“Reducing uncertainty in weather and climate information requires us to change the way we work. In the years to come, it is important that we work together to reach those most vulnerable to climate and disaster risk, by leveraging advances made by the private sector on harnessing more accurate climate and weather information. One of the main challenge will be to ensure that free and reliable information continues to reach the most vulnerable,” said Francis Ghesquiere, head of GFDRR.

New strategies for weather information

The world’s economies are extremely sensitive to weather and climate hazards. In 2017 weather-related disasters broke all previous records and caused losses of over $330 billion.

One solution is to strengthen the Global Weather Enterprise (GWE). The GWE encompasses all the areas – scientific research, technology, observations, modelling, forecasting, and forecast products – that need to come together to provide accurate and reliable weather information and services.

The GWE is a value chain that stretches from weather observations to the creation of actionable analysis and weather forecast information that can save lives, protect infrastructure, and enhance economic output.

Until now, the GWE – which comprises the public, private, and academic sectors – has kept pace with the requirements for weather and climate services. Today’s forecasts are highly accurate and reliable, sufficient to make well-informed decisions. The advantages are apparent in most advanced economies, where weather and climate information can be tailored to specific users’ needs.

But the demand for more accurate and reliable weather and climate information is accelerating – and the stakes are high. Most of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN 2030 Agenda can be blown off course by weather and climate risks. If we are to achieve them, we must reduce the vulnerability of societies to weather and climate extremes.

A global partnership to benefit all

Collecting and sharing data on weather and climate risks requires working together across sectors. Globally, public and private sector cooperation can help meet the unchecked impacts of weather and climate extremes on evolving economies. To do so, the GWE must grow in both size and ambition.

In November, the Global Weather Enterprise Seminar was held in Washington, DC, during which all parties expressed commitment to work together, and identified ways to move forward in the coming months and break down barriers between the public, private and academic sectors.

Participants of the GWE will gather again in April for the WMO-GFDRR-HMEI Special Session on Public-Private-Academic Engagement in Singapore to advance the discussion on enterprise-wide standards of quality and accessibility of data and information used and produced across the GWE.

Breaking the sectoral barriers and maximizing the effort will be crucial to saving lives and protecting economies in a changing climate. It is the best way to make sure that weather and climate information is available to those that need it – as it was available to meteorologists in Miami and decision-makers in Barbuda – and when they need it the most.