Intense drought can devastate a country. . Dealing with both at the same time? That’s just another day for too many countries around the world that struggle to accurately predict weather- and climate-related disasters while simultaneously dealing with their effects.
Today, World Meteorological Day recognizes the benefits of accurate forecasting and improved delivery of hydromet services for the safety of lives and economies. Hydrological and meteorological (or “hydromet”) hazards – weather, water, and climate extremes – are responsible for 90 percent of total disaster losses worldwide. Getting accurate, timely predictions of these hazards into the hands of decision-makers and the public can save lives, while generating at least three dollars’ worth of socio-economic benefits for every one dollar invested in weather and climate services – a win-win. But less than 15 years ago, even the small amount of hydromet investment that existed was fragmented, with little hope of producing sustainable results.
In recent years, the landscape has changed dramatically. There is now significant international discussion about the enormous benefits of hydromet investment through forums such as the the annual InterMET Asia Conference, which this year just wrapped up in Singapore. Today, some of the most vulnerable countries in the world, especially in Africa, have access to twice the funding than they did a decade ago. And one partnership has been crucial to the increased awareness of, and investment in, the hydromet sector: the collaboration between the World Bank, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
This week, the World Bank and the WMO formalized their cooperation with a framework Memorandum of Understanding, which will allow them to more easily combine hydromet knowledge and expertise with targeted investments in hydromet and early-warning services.
A decade ago, hydromet investment was patchy at best, and there was limited collaboration in the field. Last year, when the World Bank, GFDRR, and the WMO co-organized the First Development Partners Roundtable, they brought together 37 partners and donors now working on hydromet. (A second annual conference is already in the works.) GFDRR’s Hydromet Initiative has partnered with leading national meteorological services across the globe, including agencies from the UK, Sweden, Finland, the US, Austria, Switzerland, Japan, and Australia – all of which are WMO Member countries.
The result has been a major increase in hydromet funding and improved project design.
Such projects are crucial in Africa, which is particularly vulnerable to hydromet hazards: across the continent, almost half of all on-the-ground weather stations, and three-quarters of upper air stations, don’t report data. The Africa Regional Hydromet Program, one of several programs on which the World Bank and the WMO collaborate, is working to fix that.
The World Bank, the WMO, and GFDRR are also collaborating on the Climate Risk and Early Warning System (CREWS) initiative, which aims to mobilize significant investment by 2020, targeting the initiative targets early-warning systems in the world’s Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.
The key to improving hydromet services in these vulnerable countries is to build the institutional and human capacity of governments and national weather agencies. That’s why the World Bank, GFDRR, and the WMO have worked to introduce an integrated approach to hydromet projects that fosters dialogue between national weather offices and the sectors they serve, and to share knowledge across borders. For instance, the three institutions collaborated on a guidance document designed to help providers of hydromet services measure their economic impact. GFDRR and the World Bank also support the annual InterMET Asia conference with WMO participation, and this year, they’re also co-organizing a conference on multi-hazard early warning systems, set for May 22-23 in Cancun.
A New Chapter
The new, deeper partnership between the World Bank and the WMO is intended to help facilitate even smoother collaboration. The two institutions will establish a liaison mechanism to exchange knowledge and expertise – an arrangement that will allow the World Bank to draw on the WMO’s technical expertise with ease, while the WMO can get the World Bank’s help in implementing operations on the ground.
The partnership looks beyond just hydromet to other climate-adjacent activities ripe for collaboration – from climate-smart agriculture to urban infrastructure to climate-informed public health. It’s designed to allow the two institutions to draw on each other’s strengths.
That will be a boon to the more than 100 countries worldwide that desperately need to overhaul their hydromet services. Hydromet hazards may be unavoidable, but for these countries, getting accurate information about them and disseminating it to those who need to know can save lives and rescue livelihoods. There’s plenty more work to do ahead, together.