World Meteorological Day – improving our understanding of the weather and a changing climate

World Meteorological Day – observed every year on 23 March – celebrates the birthday of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1950.

We all rely on our knowledge of the weather in our daily lives – when to do the laundry or paint the house, whether or not to cycle to work or if we should venture outside the reef in a small fishing boat. Air traffic controllers and ship's captains use weather information to avoid storms and other poor weather patterns.
We also rely on our knowledge of longer term weather patterns to plan our school terms and holidays, our sports seasons, tourist season, when to sow and harvest certain crops and when to implement stronger water conservation measures.

World Met Day-Stuart-Chape
Image: (c) Stuart Chape/SPREP

We often take this knowledge for granted and only turn to our national meteorological services – the "weather office" – when there is a cyclone warning or other extreme event. This World Meteorological Day, let's take a moment to consider the women and men who are responsible for bringing us our weather and climate information. They are the people who work around the clock, keeping track of and compiling information from a range of weather stations and satellites and assessing it so that forecasts can be made and then delivered to the rest of us in a way we can understand. They are the people who, in close consultation with National Disaster Offices, keep us safe by providing early warnings for extreme events such as storms, cyclones, drought periods as well as tsunami risks.

The WMO boasts that a five-day weather forecast today is as good as a two-day forecast 20 years ago. This is testament to the commitment of the WMO and the national meteorological services (NMSs), who have together built the technology and collected the information needed to improve our knowledge of the weather and to better understand the climate.

The WMO Regional Office for South-West Pacific is based with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), reflecting the high priority that SPREP's members place on meteorological services in the region. SPREP, through the Pacific Meteorological Desk, is also secretariat to the Pacific Meteorological Council.

SPREP is working closing with WMO, the governments of Australia and Finland, the United States' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research on a number of activities to provide support to National Meteorological Services in the Pacific. These include upgrading the Emergency Managers Weather Information Network (EMWIN) systems in Pacific islands, strengthening meteorological policy and legislation, providing climate updates and supporting capacity building of Pacific island NMSs to deliver improved weather and climate services. Particular focus is being given to ensuring that NMS communication products are adequately tailored to meet the needs of rural communities.

We are confident that with ever-improving information collection technology, new models to predict weather and climate in the long term, and strengthened collaborative ties, Pacific island people, together with the rest of the planet, will indeed be well placed to deal with the changing climate.
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