Worldwide Weather Information Standards in the Works

GENEVA, Switzerland, September 17, 2008 (ENS) – The UN World Meteorological Organization and the International Organization for Standardization, ISO, have agreed to cooperate in setting international standards for weather, climate and water data, products and services.

The new procedures will “clarify the authority of WMO documents and enhance their international recognition and dissemination,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud at Tuesday’s signing ceremony in Geneva.

Sun, rain and lightning over Yuma,
Arizona (Photo credit unknown)

“This will be of particular importance to the activities of national hydrological and meteorological services in addressing standard issues,” he said.

ISO Secretary General Alan Bryden said consistent international standards will help the world respond to the challenges of climate change.

He hailed the agreement as an illustration of the increasing collaboration between the UN system and his organization.

A nongovernmental organization that forms a bridge between the public and private sectors, ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 157 countries, one member per country, with a central secretariat in Geneva that coordinates the system.

Many of the ISO member institutes are part of the governmental structure of their countries, or are mandated by their government. Other members have their roots in the private sector, as they were set up by national partnerships of industry associations.

The World Meteorological Organization already has liaison status with nearly 30 of ISO’s technical committees developing standards for hydrometry, air quality, water quality, soil quality, geographic information, solar energy, petroleum and gas industry, information technologies, marine, quantities and units.

The new agreement is intended to strengthen the development of international standards and avoid duplication related to weather, climate, freshwater and marine data.

Earlier this month, at a meeting in France, Jarraud said weather forecasts must play a greater role in planning for economic development and poverty reduction because of the impact climate change has on water resources.

Michel Jarraud heads the World Meteorological
Organization. (Photo courtesy United Nations)

“Mainstreaming climate change in decision-making processes will be central to all development and poverty alleviation efforts,” he said at the the World Water Congress, held in Montpellier, France on September 2.

Jarraud reminded participants that six of the eight UN Millennium Development Goals relate to water resource management, and that severe flooding, drought and cyclones caused by climate change are obstructing efforts to meet the goals by their target date of 2015.

World Meteorological Organization analysts predict that in the next few decades economic and social pressures will add to the growing competition for water resources between food production, other agricultural sectors and production of biofuels.

The WMO has launched an appeal for funding to set up hydrological information systems that can provide timely, accurate and comprehensive water resources information and support economic development through better land and water resource strategy planning.

The growing demand for a diminishing water supply is a serious challenge to resource management, said Jarraud. One sixth of the world’s population, mostly in rural areas, on small islands, and in regions dependant on water from glaciers and snow melt, is adversely affected by the shortage of ground water.

Adding to the challenges for water resource managers is the increasing scarcity of drinking water for people living in many cities due to falling levels of low flow rivers and rising sea levels, said Jarraud, as well as the increase in mortality rates for waterborne diseases, such as malaria and cholera, in the wettest and driest regions.

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