Apia, Samoa, 25 August 2014 – Recognizing that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are particularly vulnerable to climate impacts such as sea-level rise, reduced fisheries catch, droughts, floods, coastal surges, and typhoons (also known as hurricanes and cyclones), the World Meteorological Organization is urging SIDS and their partners to collaborate on developing stronger weather and climate services.
With the UN Conference on SIDS as a platform, WMO is launching the Global Framework for Climate Services for SIDS as a means of promoting this greater collaboration. GFCS-SIDS will engage regional and global partners in a series of projects and activities for attracting greater human, technical and financial investments in these services.
“Most small islands are physically isolated in the vast ocean and are highly vulnerable to climate impacts. Adding to the challenge, because of their small populations they tend to lack a critical mass of technical skills,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.
“Greater investments in weather and climate services are essential so that Small Island Developing States can produce and access the predictions and information needed for reducing disaster risk, strengthening climate resilience and supporting sustainable development.”
Weather services deliver early warnings that save countless lives and reduce economic losses from storms, floods, droughts, and other hazards. When SIDS and their partners spend money to strengthen weather services, they are making investments that will pay for themselves many times over. The international community increasingly recognizes the value of prioritizing such investments.
For example, following the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, WMO led international efforts to rehabilitate and modernize the weather, climate and hydrology forecasting infrastructure that had been destroyed. It continues to build capacity, including by training scientific and technical personnel and developing a business plan for the country’s National Meteorological and Hydrological Service.
Many countries are now building on their weather capabilities to develop climate services designed to support longer term decision-making on public health, agriculture, water resources and other climate-sensitive sectors. A number of SIDS are already benefiting from GFCS support to establish national climate services frameworks.
In the case of Belize, for example, the priority is to produce and use climate information and services for the energy, tourism, citrus and sugar sectors, among others. Through GFCS-SIDS, WMO and its partners will increase their support to countries in the South Pacific, the Caribbean, Africa and the Indian Ocean.
Many WMO programmes and activities are also supporting weather and climate services in SIDS. WMO sponsors research into how sea-level rise, warming seawater and acidification impact coastal management and fisheries, which are key sectors for SIDS. WMO helps to coordinate global ocean observations, and it is assisting countries such as Fiji and the Dominican Republic to develop coastal inundation forecasting systems.
WMO also partners with governments and organizations to support capacity development in SIDS through education, training, the provision of fellowships, and the installation and upgrading of meteorological equipment.
To amplify its promotional activities at the conference itself, WMO is partnering with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and others to raise public awareness of the special needs of SIDS through the “Weather Together” campaign – see www.weathertogether.org.
About climate services
Seasonal and multiyear climate forecasting has advanced to the point where it can now provide actionable information. Growing confidence in climate predictions has been made possible by supercomputer-based modelling, improved observations from satellites and other instruments, and a greater understanding of large-scale climate patterns such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Similarly, scenarios of future climate change based on increasingly reliable models can be used to guide investments and strategies for the coming decades.
Sophisticated climate services combine climate forecasts with information from other sectors to inform decisions on public health, agriculture, water management, disaster risk and other priorities. For example, a monsoon forecast plus information on past cropping decisions and market trends can support decisions on food security. Scenarios of future sea-level rise combined with population trends can shape long-term investments in coastal housing and infrastructure.
While the use of climate information and forecasts is growing rapidly, some 70 developing countries still lack the resources and expertise they need for their citizens to benefit from climate services. The GFCS was established to assist these countries to develop and use climate services. It also promotes international collaboration, the pooling of resources and expertise, and the sharing of best practices.