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Volunteers for Weather, Climate and Water

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World Meteorological Day commemorates the entry into force, on 23 March 1950, of the Convention of the World Meteorological Organization. Each year, WMO celebrates the Day by focusing on a theme of interest to humanity. The theme of World Meteorological Day 2001—"Volunteers for weather, climate and water"—was chosen to recognize all voluntary contributions, including those of individuals, governments, academic institutions and civil society, including religious groups and schools to the advancement of the sciences of meteorology and hydrology and to the operational activities of WMO and the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs). The theme also coincides with the UN-designated International Year of the Volunteers in 2001. In calling for the work of volunteers to be honoured, the international community wished to give broader recognition and greater prominence to the vital contributions of volunteers to the socio-economic development of nations, as well as to enhance the recognition, networking and promotion of voluntary service worldwide. It is therefore appropriate, at the beginning of the new millennium and following the celebration of the 50th anniversary of WMO in the year 2000, for WMO to join the world community in paying tribute to the volunteers who have been making significant contributions to meteorology, hydrology and the related geophysical sciences.

No history of meteorology would be complete without reference to voluntary and cooperative observers. Since the very early days of their sciences, meteorologists and hydrologists around the world have been assisted, especially in their operational work, by networks of volunteers. The activities of the volunteers range from activities such as carrying out rainfall observations to taking responsibility for entire synoptic, climatological or agrometeorological stations, and to the promotion of the sciences. In most countries, the contributions from such volunteers are integrated within the activities of NMHSs. Such contributions find applications in weather-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, water-resources management, aviation and shipping.

The individual volunteers, irrespective of their professional activities and training, are all united in their common fascination with meteorological and hydrological phenomena. Perseverance and commitment are two of the most common personal characteristics of volunteers. It is not uncommon to come across volunteers with more than 50 years of service, or individuals forming part of the second or third generation of volunteers.

Some NMHSs have specialized units to deal with volunteers in general. Extending a long tradition of amateur science, some enthusiastic volunteers appear to be indistinguishable from professional meteorologists as they use sophisticated meteorological instruments and equipment in their weather station, publish annual summaries and descriptive climatological studies and participate in the activities of meteorological societies. In recognition of the dedication and contribution of long-serving volunteers, many NMHSs present certificates and awards to individuals and institutions.

Nowadays NMHSs use highly sophisticated equipment, facilities and models in the preparation of weather forecasts, climate prediction and related products. However, ground-, air- or ocean-based voluntary observations continue to be useful, because they provide essential inputs, especially from data- sparse and often remote and inaccessible areas to operational and scientific meteorological and hydrological activities.

In this respect, governments through the NMHSs, make important voluntary contributions to the work of WMO. A unique feature of WMO is that each NMHS of its 185 Members contributes voluntarily to the scientific and operational work of the Organization by sharing its observations, encouraging standardization, exchanging data and making available its expertise to the regional associations and technical commissions. This is explained by the fact that, as weather and climate know no national boundaries, international cooperation on a global scale is considered essential for the development of meteorology and hydrology, as well as for reaping the benefits from their applications.

Recognizing the interdependency of all countries in relation to meteorological and hydrological activities, WMO Member countries adopted Resolution 40 at the Twelfth World Meteorological Congress in 1995. The resolution provides a unique framework for the free and unrestricted exchange of meteorological data and products on a regular basis between nations through WMO's World Weather Watch. This system comprises a network of national, regional and global centres maintained voluntarily by WMO Member countries. Other similar programmes include the World Hydrological Cycle Observing System and the Global Atmosphere Watch, which make available meteorological, hydrological and environmental data and products to each NMHS on an equal basis, limited only to its technical capability of communicating with the system. The data and products also enable all nations to fulfil their obligations under international conventions, such as those on climate change and desertification. Similarly, Resolution 25 of the Thirteenth World Meteorological Congress in 1999 provides for the free exchange of hydrological data and products among Member countries.

Other major sources of regular data for operational and research purposes, arranged voluntarily and for mutual benefit through NMHSs, include those from satellites, commercial aircraft and ships. Since the early days of commercial aviation, observations from aircraft have proved to be extremely valuable for improved weather forecasts and safety of air navigation.

Similarly, over the oceans, ships' personnel, often in difficult and dangerous situations, utilize their expertise to make observations and pass on the results to the appropriate centres. Indeed, these data make a vital contribution to weather forecasting and to marine safety and efficiency. They also serve as historical data needed for planning and design, and contribute substantially to our understanding of atmosphere-ocean interaction and climate change. They are also essential for the development of long-range, and seasonal to interannual forecasts, and are of particular importance for predicting phenomena such as El Niủo. At the beginning of this year, over 6 700 vessels from 52 countries were participating in the WMO Voluntary Observing Ships (VOS) Programme, under which ships are recruited by National Meteorological Services to record and transmit real-time meteorological and oceanographic observations, including air pressure, air temperature, sea-surface temperature, wind and sea-state.

The data or "readings" obtained by these networks of volunteers and cooperative observers from various institutions, public or private, contribute to the effort of the NMHSs in support of sustainable development. The data, especially if part of a long series, also make a valuable contribution to studies of the climate, especially at local level and over oceans, as well as to our understanding of human influence on climate and natural processes affecting the atmosphere, land and the oceans.

Volunteers in many countries also contribute in ensuring more effective preparedness against hazardous weather conditions such as tropical cyclones, tornadoes and blizzards at local and national levels. At times, the success of crucial forecasts during extreme weather events may benefit from the availability of critical ground-based observations provided by volunteers. An example of this is in the use of volunteer storm-spotters who render a worthwhile service as they provide on-the-scene, up-to-date information that complement other data from radars and satellites. This information is often reported to meteorologists through a network of amateur radio operators. The concerted effort and solidarity that are so often seen in extreme weather events or in the event of other natural disasters are, in many respects, reinforced by the fact that certain critical jobs, from amateur radio operators to firemen, are also carried out by volunteers.

In some countries of Central America, when risk levels increase, volunteer observers are asked to measure rainfall and report the results every hour to a forecasting centre. Once rainfall exceeds a critical threshold, the levels of the river and its tributaries are measured. As the rainfall is measured consistently, a rise in river level helps to confirm the geographic extent and the amount of the precipitation. When the river exceeds its critical flooding level, the forecasting centre notifies the local emergency committee which issues a public warning and activates an emergency plan. These community early warning systems have the advantage of being simple to operate and are effective in raising the awareness of rural communities to the risk of natural disasters.

WMO's role in coordinating the voluntary collaboration of its Member countries on a global scale is unique. It has been responsible for some of the best examples of international cooperation. For example, its pioneering role in the global coordination of geophysical, including meteorological, experiments has contributed to remarkable advancements in areas such as weather forecasting, climate science and ozone monitoring. The experiments include the International Geophysical Year (1957/1958), the Global Atmosphere Research Programme's Atlantic Tropical Experiment (GATE, 1974), the Global Weather Experiment (1978/1979), the Alpine Experiment (1982), and the Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment (1992-1993) within the Tropical Ocean and Global Atmosphere (TOGA) project (1985-1994).

A number of other mechanisms that assist in ensuring important voluntary contributions to the advancement of the sciences of meteorology and hydrology, their applications to socio-economic development and to the development of NMHSs have been established.

Amongst these is the way the WMO/UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) accomplishes its tasks, which in itself highlights the spirit of voluntarily international collaboration and cooperation. Established jointly by WMO and UNEP in 1988, there are currently upwards of 3 000 scientists and other experts from around the world voluntarily providing expertise for research, drafting, reviewing and finalizing IPCC reports on various aspects of climate change. These scientists/experts straddle a large number of disciplines such as climatology, water supply, agriculture, oceanography, forestry, sustainable development, equity issues and costing methodologies. Over recent years, the level of participation by scientists and other experts from developing countries and those with economies-in-transition has increased steadily, enhancing commitment to IPCC findings.

Another major initiative unique to WMO and which contributes to global cooperation among NMHSs within the WMO community is the WMO Voluntary Cooperation Programme (VCP). Members volunteer to assist each other to enhance capabilities in the implementation of WMO scientific and technical Programmes. To ensure that all NMHSs are able to participate fully in WMO Programmes for the benefit of all Member countries, the VCP coordinates an important exchange of technology and know-how from countries with more developed NMHSs.

In the context of non-governmental organizations, national and regional meteorological and hydrological societies also make considerable voluntary contributions to the advancement of meteorology and hydrology worldwide. While many of the societies have small numbers of dedicated staff to help them, they all benefit from the participation of motivated, altruistic, yet experienced, scientists in activities related to the science of meteorology and hydrology and their applications to socio-economic development. These activities invariably involve, among others, developing and disseminating knowledge of meteorology, hydrology and related sciences; and promoting and advancing the sciences among the public, academic researchers, the media and the public.

Within the UN System, WMO also collaborates with the UN Volunteer Programme. United Nations Volunteers (UNVs) with key professional skills have been regularly assigned to WMO projects throughout the world for many years. UNV specialists have contributed a wide range of expertise to projects implemented by WMO in developing countries. At various times over the past decade, hydrologists, hydrogeologists, oceanographers, water ecologists, meteorologists, agrometeorologists, aeronautical forecasters, telecommunications experts and energy technicians from countries in Africa, Asia and the South Pacific have offered their services as volunteers.

It is my hope that, as we move forward into this new millennium, the volunteers for weather, climate and water will extend and reinforce their collaboration with the NMHSs and WMO in contributing to the protection of life and property against natural disasters, in safeguarding the environment and in enhancing the economic and social well-being of all sectors of society. The theme also provides an opportunity for governments, civil society, the private sector, the general public and the media to appreciate the important contributions that volunteers make to society in general and to sciences such as meteorology and hydrology, in particular. WMO will continue to enhance such collaboration and encourage the relevant individuals and institutions to further develop such voluntary work for the benefit of future generations.

Tiêu điểm

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NGÀY THẾ GIỚI PHÒNG CHỐNG AIDS NĂM 2017

 

Ngày 1 tháng 12 năm 2017

 

Michel Sidibé
Tổng Giám đốc UNAIDS
Phó Tổng thư ký Liên Hợp Quốc

Kỷ niệm ngày Thế giới phòng chống AIDS năm nay, chúng ta cùng nhau nêu bật tầm quan trọng của quyền về sức khỏe và những thách thức mà những người sống với HIV và người có nguy cơ cao lây nhiễm HIV còn đang phải đối mặt trong việc thực hiện quyền về sức khỏe.


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Youssouf Abdel-Jelil
United Nations Resident Coordinator a.i. in Viet Nam


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