Weather and Climate Services in Europe & Central Asia
This paper reviews the status of weather and climate services in Europe and Central Asia (ECA). Worldwide, the accuracy and value of weather and climate services arerising, bringing great economic benefits. However, many national hydrometeorological services (NMHSs) in Europe and Central Asia are in decline. As a result, these potentialgains are often missed. Much more could be done to mitigate weather disasters, support the productivity of smallholding and commercial agriculture, conserve energy, and promote safe aviation and transport by road and rail. Although NMHS capacity deficiencies are serious, they could be significantly remedied by relatively modest—but sustained—investments. Economic assessments indicate substantial benefit-to-cost ratios for such initiatives.
In most countries, weather and climate are forecast for the public by national meteorological services (NMSs); in the ECA region, NMSs are often organized as branches ofnational hydrometeorological services (NMHSs). In addition to routine weather forecasts used by households, NMSs often provide weather forecasts tailored to support agriculture, municipal services, disaster management, water resource planning and management, transport, environmental protection, public health, and other sectors (seeTable 1.1 for a list of key economic applications). Among their higher-level goals, safety of life and property is their stated primary mandate, followed by reduction of the impact of natural disasters and support for national sustainable development. NMSs generally provide a limited menu of free services by mandate, such as short-term weather forecasts and emergency forecasts to the media and/or public and weather reports to specific government authorities. In recent years, a new service, information about themagnitude and direction of climate trends, has been identified as a matter of growing importance.
Investments in weather forecast services have often been formulated as components of projects addressing the concerns of a single sectoral client of weather services—agriculture, or disaster management, or water resource management, for example. Only one project to date has been formulated to address a hydromet agency’s full circuit of clients (Russian Hydromet Modernization Project, see Box 2.1). In either type of project, investment in weather forecasting can be more cost-effective and sustainable if theinterests of all key sectoral clients are taken into account. Single-sector issues that influence the structuring of NMHS services to all clients include, among others: (i) the ability of smallholding farmers to benefit greatly from good forecasts but inability to pay (a global observation); (ii) the EU’s environmental data regulations that broadly require data sharing (although exceptions may be carved out for meteorology); (iii) technicalrequirements for forecasts prepared for international aviation that are set by international treaty; (iv) lack of information sharing by enterprises or other Government agencies (such as agriculture, aviation, road transport, energy enterprises, water management or environment) of meteorological observations, and (v) global interest in data relevant to climate change. It would be valuable, therefore, to review the concerns of the sectors most affected by the skill and availability of forecasts.
The sensitivity of a national economy to weather information depends partly on the country’s climate. Is it storm-prone, drought-prone, or strongly influenced byweather patterns from un-monitored areas? This chapter highlights climate issues that help determine the forecasting capacity needed. Four issues are considered: transboundary weather patterns, harshness of climate, variability of climate, and climate change.
As noted above, the study aimed to delineate the areas of strength and weakness of ECA’s regional monitoring and forecasting system and the national economic applications most affected by weather. In sum, the first finding is that the regional systemis deficient in data from measurements that are expensive to carry out, but that were often formerly available, such as upper air soundings and radar. Upper air sounding is important to every application and is a key to safe aviation. Radar is particularly important to disaster mitigation. The second finding is that the regional system is generally deficient in modern sensors and methods, such as automated data, up-to-date satellite data, local area modeling, and database management/archiving. Satellite data is of great importance in agricultural and environmental applications; modeling is important in every application from agriculture to hydrology and disaster mitigation; effective database management enhances every application and is a requirement for climate services. The third finding is that theregional system is also deficient due to weak telecom links. Station data is often unavailable to the region because of the weak links from remote stations to national centers, and sometimes because of weak links between national centers and regional hubs. This also affects disaster mitigation. These findings will be further detailed below.
Lack of awareness of the value provided by NMSs limits the availability of public resources for these services. Quantitative assessment of the contribution of NMHSs to the national economy is therefore an important task for many NMHSs in the region.
The need for advocacy to secure funding for the hydrometeorological sector is not unique to economies in transition. Many governments, particularly those in developedcountries, today want to see demonstrated results from resources allocated to NMSs/NMHSs. This situation is well recognized by the meteorological community. While overtime the WMO has addressed a small number of weather-related socio-economic issues and has promoted interdisciplinary economic assessment, the larger meteorologicalcommunity today is keenly interested in evaluating the socio-economic benefits of hydrometeorological information and services. The importance of this issue wasemphasized at the recent WMO International Conference, "Secure and Sustainable Living: Social and Economic Benefits of Weather, Climate and Water Services" (Madrid,March 2007).