Watching the weather to protect life and property

On 23 March each year, the worldwide meteorological community joins the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in celebrating World Meteorological Day. This commemorates the day in 1950 that the WMO was created, and also serves to create awareness around meteorology and the important role it plays in our daily lives. Every year has a special theme, this year being “Watching the weather to protect life and property”.

Given the loss of human life and destruction of property we’re witnessing internationally with increasing regularity, resulting from natural disasters such as droughts, floods and tornados, it is obvious that early awareness of potential extreme weather conditions is critical for the protection of life and property. And it is here that meteorology plays such a key role – it is the science that deals with the study of past weather patterns and trends, in order to predict what the weather holds in the future.

Knowing what the weather holds - a quest as old as mankind.(© All Rights Reserved)
Knowing what the weather holds – a quest as old as mankind.
(© All Rights Reserved)

To find out more about the meteorology and its role in protecting life and property, have a look at the WMO’s cry informative World Meteorology Day brochure. As the document points out, “weather and climate knows no national borders”, and so this is another of those domains where international cooperation and sharing of knowledge and resources is absolutely critical to benefit all of humankind. To this end, it is also pertinent that 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the World Weather Watch – a landmark in international cooperation. The World Weather Watch “combines observing systems, telecommunication facilities, and data-processing and forecasting centres in order to disseminate essential meteorological and related environmental information and services in all countries.”

As extreme weather conditions become more commonplace (due to global climate change), investment in new technologies to more accurately predict extreme events and natural disasters are becoming increasingly important. Investing in early warning technologies allowing us to be ready sooner – to prepare for, and even prevent, disasters – makes perfect sense. As an example of this, an international project known as THORPEX (THe Observing system Research and Predictability EXperiment) is working on new techniques and technologies to extend forecasts of high-impact weather events to two weeks (current state of the art systems can provide reliable predictions of between 5 and 10 days). THORPEX is an international collaborative project between ten leading forecasting centres.

To quote M Jarraud, Secretary-General of the WMO: “More than ever the world needs global cooperation to promote and coordinate the provision of better and longer-term weather and climate forecasts and early warnings to protect life and property. The 2013 World Meteorological Day offers an occasion to reinforce this message and to contribute to address- ing the challenges of the 21st century.”

Definitely a message worth supporting and sharing.

Celebrating the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer

Today, 16 September, is a critically important day for this little planet of ours – it’s World Ozone Day, or to be more precise, the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer.

The day was officially proclaimed as one of the United Nations’ International Observances in 1994, falling under the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP. The date was specifically selected to commemorate the signing of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer on 16 September 1987, marking this year as the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol.

So why is the preservation of the ozone so important? I’m sure it’s a lot more complicated than my basic understanding of the subject, but in essence the ozone in the stratosphere plays a critical role in absorbing much of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. Furthermore ozone in the lower atmosphere also plays a role in removing pollutants from the air.

Not a pretty picture.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Now as we humans are prone to do, many of our actions are not all that considerate of the health of the earth, and can be very detrimental to the ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol aimed to identify and address substances and actions that contribute to the depletion of the ozone in the atmosphere, and is one of the great examples of international cooperation towards a global good. As an outcome of the Protocol, the phasing out of the use of ozone depleting substances is helping protect the ozone layer for generations to come. The international awareness created through the Montreal Protocol has also contributed to a greater appreciation and awareness of the effects of climate change on the earth.

To help create continued awareness, UNEP’s OzonAction Programme has developed a Public Service Announcement (PSA) video, in 6 UN languages, for global broadcasting and viral distribution.  The English announcement is embedded below, while links to the Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish announcements can be found here.

 

For more information, the UN website provides some very interesting general background on ozone preservation, as well as information of some ozone depleting substances in different industry sectors.

Protecting our atmosphere (and environment) for generations to come.
(© All Rights Reserved)

In celebration of World Ozone Day, take a minute today to appreciate the ozone layer and how it contributes to the world and the environment as we know it. Not only does it protect us humans from life threatening cancer-causing UVB radiation, but it is also critical for plant health, marine ecosystems and terrestrial and aquatic biogeochemical cycles.

The theme of this year’s event is “Protecting our atmosphere for generations to come” – surely a cause well worth supporting and celebrating.