The World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

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The practical uses of meteorology are to instruct, advise, and warn mankind about the weather. Thus, it can help prevent devastation caused by flood, drought, and storm; it can also assist the peoples of the world in best adapting their agriculture and industry to the climatic conditions under which they live.

For meteorology, international cooperation is indispensable. The reasons are expressed in the following words of President John F. Kennedy: " there is the atmosphere itself, the atmosphere in which we live and breathe and which makes life on this planet possible. Scientists have studied the atmosphere for many decades, but its problems continue to defy us. The reasons for our limited progress are obvious. Weather cannot be easily reproduced and observed in the laboratory. It must, therefore, be studied in all of its violence wherever it has its way. Here, new scientific tools have become available. With modern computers, rockets and satellites, the time is ripe to harness a variety of disciplines for a concerted attack. The atmospheric sciences require worldwide observation and, hence, international cooperation."


Beginning in 1853, many of the world's leading maritime countries tried to establish an international system for collecting meteorological observations made by ships at sea.

The first international meteorological congress was held in Vienna in 1873; it led to the founding of the International Meteorological Organization, composed of directors of meteorological services from various countries and territories throughout the world. This body carried out ambitious programs to perfect and standardize international meteorological practices.

As transportation, communications, agriculture, and industry developed in the 20th century, they increasingly relied on meteorology, while meteorology itself relied to an increasing extent on advances in science and technology to perfect its methods of observing and predicting weather phenomena. Hence, the closest possible collaboration was called for between the International Meteorological Organization and other international bodies.

A conference of directors of national meteorological services met in Washington in 1947 under the auspices of the International Meteorological Organization and adopted the World Meteorological Convention, establishing the World Meteorological Organization as a UN specialized agency. On 23 March 1950, after 30 signers had ratified or acceded to the convention, it came into force. The first WMO congress opened in Paris on 19 March 1951.


As set forth in the World Meteorological Convention, the purposes of the WMO are sixfold:

  • to facilitate worldwide cooperation in the establishment of networks of stations for meteorological, hydrological, and other geophysical observations and to promote the establishment and maintenance centers charged with the provision of meteorological and related services;
  • to promote the establishment and maintenance of systems for rapid exchange of weather information;
  • to promote standardization of meteorological and related observations and ensure uniform publication of observations and statistics;
  • to further the application of meteorology to aviation, shipping, water problems, agriculture, and other human activities;
  • to promote activities in operational hydrology and cooperation between meteorological and hydrological services; and
  • to encourage research and training in meteorology and, as appropriate, to assist in coordinating the international aspects of such research and training.


Membership in the WMO is not limited to sovereign states; it may include territories that maintain their own meteorological services. Membership is open to any of the 45 states and 30 territories attending the 1947 conference in Washington that signed the convention or to any member of the UN with a meteorological service. Any of these automatically becomes a member of the WMO upon ratifying or acceding to the convention. Any other state, territory, or group of territories maintaining its own meteorological services may become eligible for membership upon approval of two-thirds of the WMO membership. As of May 2006, the WMO had 189 members.


The WMO is headed by a president and three vice-presidents, elected by the World Meteorological Congress. There is also an Executive Council and a secretariat.

World Meteorological Congress

The World Meteorological Congress is the supreme body of the organization and is composed of the delegates representing its member states and territories. (According to the World Meteorological Convention, the principal delegate of each member "should be the director of its meteorological service.") The congress, which meets every four years, determines changes in the constitution and functions of the various WMO bodies, adopts regulations covering meteorological practices and procedures, and determines general policies for carrying out the purposes of the organization and related matters. It also establishes the regional associations and technical commissions.

Each member of the congress has one vote. Election of individuals to serve in any capacity in the organization is by a simple majority of the votes cast; other questions are decided by two thirds of the votes cast for and against. On certain subjects, only members that are states may vote.

Executive Council

The Executive Council has 47 members: the president and the three vice-presidents of the WMO; the presidents of the six regional associations; and 37 directors of meteorological services from the member countries, elected by the congress. Meeting at least once a year, the council carries out the activities of the organization and the decisions of the congress. Its own decisions are reached by a two-thirds majority.

Regional Associations

There are six regional associations: one each for Africa, Asia, South America, North and Central America, the Southwest Pacific, and Europe. The regional associations are composed of the WMO members whose meteorological networks lie in or extend into the respective regions. They meet when necessary and examine from a regional point of view all questions referred to them by the Executive Council. Each association has the responsibility for coordinating meteorological activity.

Technical Commissions

The technical commissions are composed of experts in meteorology. They study various meteorological problems and make recommendations to the executive committee and the congress. The WMO has established eight commissions for the following areas: basic systems; instruments and methods of observation; atmospheric sciences; aeronautical meteorology; agricultural meteorology; marine meteorology; hydrology; and climatology. Each commission meets every four years.

Secretary-General and Secretariat

The secretariat, in Geneva, completes the structure of the WMO. Its staff, under the direction of a Secretary-General, undertakes studies, prepares publications, acts as secretariat during meetings of the various WMO bodies, and provides liaison between the various meteorological services of the world. The Secretary-General is Michel Jarraud of France, elected for a four-year term beginning on 1 January 2004. He is assisted by a staff of about 250.


Contributions to the WMO's regular budget are assessed upon members by the congress. The maximum expenditure for the financial period 20042007 as approved by the Fourteenth World Meteorological Congress is SFr 253.8 million. Extrabudgetary resources support scientific components of programs such as technical cooperation, education and training, improvement of the World Weather Watch, and some urgent environmental and climatological monitoring, research, and cooperative work. Extrabudgetary expenditures are funded through UNDP, the WMO Voluntary Cooperation Program, and funds-in-trust.


A. World Weather Watch

The World Weather Watch (WWW) was established by the Fift h World Meteorological Congress, held in Geneva in 1967. Its purpose is to make available to each national meteorological service meteorological and related environmental information required in order to enjoy the most efficient and effective meteorological and related environmental services possible in both applications and research. No other scientific discipline has such international interdependence. The WWW has three essential elements:

  1. The Global Data-Processing System provides meteorological analyses and forecast products to all meteorological services. It is composed of three world meteorological centers, in Melbourne, Moscow, and Washington, D.C.; 26 regional meteorological centers; and more than 150 national meteorological centers.
  2. The Global Observing System provides observational data from surface-based observing stations and platforms and from meteorological satellites of its space-based subsystem.
  3. The Global Telecommunication System consists of telecommunication facilities and arrangements necessary for the rapid and reliable exchange of the observational data and processed products required by meteorological services. The system is organized into the main telecommunication network (the core of the system), six regional meteorological telecommunication networks, and national meteorological telecommunication networks that interconnect meteorological centers through approximately 240 data links.

The WWW also has two support functions:

  1. WWW Data Management is concerned with the overall real-time management of data and product selection and presentation to recipients in appropriate standard formats and codes and with the monitoring of the data availability, quality, and operational status of the WWW system.
  2. WWW Systems Support Activities make available to WMO members information on new WWW technology, operational experience, and proven methodology.

Also grouped under the WWW umbrella are WMO's satellite and emergency response activities. Emergency response activities involve the coordination and implementation of procedures and response mechanisms in case of nuclear accidents, as well as the Instruments and Methods of Observation Programme and the Tropical Cyclone Programme (TCP). The TCP, is designed to assist more than 50 countries in areas vulnerable to tropical cyclones to minimize destruction and loss of life by improving forecasting and warning systems, and disaster preparedness measures.

B. World Climate Programme

The World Climate Programme (WCP) established by the eighth WMO Congress in 1979 comprises four major component programs: the World Climate Applications and Services Programme (WCASP); the World Climate Data and Monitoring Programme (WCDMP); the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP); and the World Climate Impact Assessment and Response Strategies Programme (WCIRP).

The objectives of the WCP are:

  • facilitate the effective collection and management of climate data and the monitoring of the global climate system, including the detection and assessment of climate variability and changes;
  • foster the effective application of climate knowledge and information for the benefit of society and the provision of climate services, including the prediction of significant climate variations both natural and as a result of human activity;
  • assess the impacts of climate variability and changes that could markedly affect economic or social activities and advise governments thereon and contribute to the development of a range of socioeconomic response strategies that could be used by governments and community;
  • improve the understanding of climate processes for determining the predictability of climate, including its variability and change; identifying the extent of human influence on climate; and developing the capability for climate prediction.

WMO is directly responsible for WCASP and WCDMP and for the overall coordination of the WCP, but has joint responsibility with the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO for the WCRP. UNEP is responsible for the WCIRP. Several other international organizations such as FAO, UNESCO, WHO, and UNDP are actively involved.

The close cooperation required for the WCP, which is complex and multidisciplinary, is achieved through interagency meetings and through the Climate Exchange Co-ordination Activities. Within the program, priority attention is given to the food, water, and energy sectors.

The World Climate Programme provides an interagency, interdisciplinary framework to address the full range of climate change issues, including research into the economic and social consequences of climate change. It is the major international program supporting the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the process of implementation of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, and relevant to the implementation of Agenda 21, the seminal statement of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (the "Earth Summit").

The eleventh World Meteorological Congress decided that the WCP should be supported by the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) as an essential activity associated with the World Climate Programme.

The basic objectives of the WCRP are to increase understanding of climate mechanisms and to determine to what extent climate can be predicted and the possible influence of man's activities on climate. Achieving these objectives requires input from many scientific disciplines. To assist in this, coordination and overall guidance is provided by the WMO/ICSU Joint Scientific Committee. The eleventh WMO Congress decided that UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) should be invited to join in WCRP. Continuing efforts are made at model development and global climate analysis, in particular the assessment of cloud prediction schemes and the representation of ocean-atmosphere interface fluxes in atmospheric general circulation models. Projects to assemble quality-controlled, consistent global climatological sets of sea-surface temperature and precipitation also have been established. Continual support is given to WCRP activities concerned with the study of climate forcing, including research on radiation codes used in climate models, aerosol sensitivity investigations and the global ozone research and monitoring projects.

C. Applications of Meteorology

The WMO's Aeronautical Meteorology Programme serves to further the application of meteorology to aviation. It is keyed to ensure, jointly with ICAO, the continuous development of regulatory and guidance material required for the provision of services to aviation in accordance with the operational requirements of aviation. It also contributes to the implementation and improvement of meteorological services necessary to ensure the safety, regularity, and efficiency of air transport.

The overall purpose of the WMO's Marine Meteorological Programme is the promotion of the required marine meteorological services over the high seas and coastal areas, including specialized ocean services and the application of marine climatological information for planning marine activities. The program also includes development of a comprehensive marine environmental monitoring service, a coordinated ocean data management system, and activities within the Integrated Global Ocean Services System, a joint venture of the WMO and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission until 1999, when the two organizations merged.

The purpose of the Agricultural Meteorology Programme is to help WMO members develop the capability to provide the agricultural community with practical informationbased on knowledge of the climate, recent weather, and short-, medium-, and long-term forecaststhat can be used to improve production, reduce risks and crop losses, decrease pollution by agricultural chemicals, diminish costs, and increase the efficiency of the use of energy in agriculture. In turn, these immediate goals can help members achieve self-sufficiency in food production and increase export earnings from agriculture. At the international and regional levels, the program helps to identify requirements for information in agricultural meteorology, assess the impact of weather and climate fluctuations on food production, and apply agrometeorological

AfghanistanCzech RepublicLao People's Democratic RepublicRwanda
AlbaniaDenmarkLatviaSt. Lucia
AngolaDominicaLesothoSão Tomé and Príncipe
Antigua and BarbudaDominican RepublicLiberiaSaudi Arabia
ArgentinaEcuadorLibyan Arab JamahiriyaSenegal
ArmeniaEgyptLithuaniaSerbia and Montenegro
AustraliaEl SalvadorLuxembourgSeychelles
AustriaEritreaMacaoSierra Leone
BangladeshFinlandMaldivesSolomon Islands
BelarusFrench PolynesiaMaltaSouth Africa
BelizeGambiaMauritiusSri Lanka
BhutanGermanyMicronesia, Federated States ofSuriname
Bosnia and HerzegovinaGreeceMonacoSweden
BrazilGuineaMoroccoSyrian Arab Republic
British Caribbean TerritoriesGuinea-BissauMozambiqueTajikistan
Brunei DarussalamGuyanaMyanmarTanzania
Burkina FasoHondurasNepalThe Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedoni
BurundiHong KongNetherlands
CambodiaHungaryNetherlands Antilles and ArubaTogo
CameroonIcelandNew CaledoniaTonga
CanadaIndiaNew ZealandTrinidad and Tobago
Cape VerdeIndonesiaNicaraguaTunisia
Cayman IslandsIran (Islamic Republic of)NigerTurkey
Central African RepublicIraqNigeriaTurkmenistan
ColombiaJamaicaPakistanUnited Arab Emirates
ComorosJapanPanamaUnited Kingdom
Congo, Republic ofJordanPapua New GuineaUnited States of America
Congo, DemocraticKazakhstanParaguayUruguay
Republic of theKenyaPeruUzbekistan
Cook IslandsKiribatiPhilippinesVanuatu
Costa RicaKorea, Democratic People's Republic ofPolandVenezuela
Côte d'IvoirePortugalVietnam
CroatiaKorea, Republic ofQatarYemen
CyprusKyrgyzstanRussian FederationZimbabwe

methods to improve land use, crop selection, and management practices.

The Public Weather Services Programme (PWS) of WMO was established in 1994. Its main purpose is to assist the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services to provide comprehensive and reliable weather and related services to the public. The PWS assists members to communicate weather information and forecasts to the users and warns them of severe weather. The PWS exchanges and coordinates hazardous weather information among neighboring countries. It also works to improve public understanding of meteorological events and engages in education and training programs.

D. Atmospheric Research and Environment Programme

The purpose of the Atmospheric Research and Environment Programme (AREP) is to contribute to the advancement of atmospheric sciences and to assist members in providing better meteorological services by fostering research in meteorology and related environmental fields. It also is aimed at ensuring that members have relevant information and guidance to make the best use of the results of research applied for the benefit of their national economies and quality of life. The transfer of technology is ensured through support, within available resources, for the participation of scientists from developing countries in AREP.

AREP has five main components: the Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW); the Programme on Short- and Medium-Range Weather Prediction Research; the Programme on Long-range Forecasting Research; the Tropical Meteorology Research Programme (TMRP); and the Programme on Physics and Chemistry of Clouds and Weather Modification Research (PCCWMR).

Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW).

This worldwide system integrates most monitoring and research activities involving the measurement of atmospheric composition. It is intended to serve as an early warning system to detect further changes in the ozone layer and in long-range transport of pollutants, including acidity and toxicity of rain, as well as the atmospheric burden of aerosols. The instruments of these globally standardized observations and related research are the WMO Global Ozone Observing System (GOOS), operating about 140 stations in more than 60 countries, and the WMO Background Air Pollution Monitoring Network (BAPMoN), which has nearly 200 stations in more than 90 countries. GAW is the main contributor of data on chemical composition and physical characteristics of the atmosphere to the Global Environment Monitoring Systems (GEMS) of UNEP. GAW will be a main component of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). Through GAW, WMO collaborates with the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and is responsible for the meteorological part of the Monitoring and Evaluation of the Long-Range Transmission of Air Pollutants in Europe. In this respect WMO has arranged for the establishment of two Meteorological Synthetizing Centers (in Oslo and Moscow) that provide daily analysis of the transport of pollution over Europe. GAW also gives attention to atmospheric chemistry studies, prepares assessments, and encourages integrated environmental monitoring.

Weather Prediction Research Programs (WPRP).

These programs assist members in improving their weather services by exchanging the results of research on weather prediction. It accomplishes this goal by means of international conferences, technical reports, and progress reports on numerical weather prediction. The Programme on Short- and Medium-Range Weather Prediction Research aims at strengthening members' research with emphasis on improving the accuracy of short- and medium-range weather forecasting, including forecasting of local weather phenomena (particularly severe phenomena). The main objective of the Programme on Long-Range Forecasting Research is to foster members' research efforts in the development, introduction, and improvement of operational long-range weather forecasting systems.

Tropical Meteorology Research Programme.

This program aims at the promotion and coordination of members' efforts into such important problems as monsoons, tropical cyclones, droughts in the arid zones of the tropics, rain-producing tropical weather systems, and the interaction between tropical and mid-latitude weather systems. The goal is to be of economic benefit to tropical countries by improving members' forecasting abilities.

Physics and Chemistry of Clouds and Weather Modification Research Programme (PCCWMP).

This program encourages scientific research in physics and chemistry of clouds and its application to all fields where clouds have a major role. Examples include weather enhancement (rain making) and hail suppression. The program provides information on worldwide weather modification projects and guidance in the design and evaluation of experiments. It also studies the role of clouds in the transport, transformation, and dispersion of pollution.

E. Hydrology and Water Resources

The purpose of the WMO's Hydrology and Water Resources Programme is to promote worldwide cooperation in the assessment of water resources and their development through the coordinated establishment of hydrological networks and services, including data collection and processing, hydrological forecasting and warnings, and the supply of meteorological and hydrological data to be used for the design of projects. The three components of the program are: the Operational Hydrology ProgrammeBasic Systems; the Operational Hydrology ProgrammeApplications and Environment; and the Programme on Water-related Issues.

The emphasis is on the operational hydrology program, and particularly its hydrological operational multipurpose subprogram, the main aim of which is to provide an efficient means and systematic institutional framework for transfer of operational hydrological technology to and between developing countries.

The program for applications and services in regard to water resources provides technical support for WMO activities dealing with environmental problems, such as the Tropical Cyclone Programme, the World Climate Programme, and WMO activities relating to droughts and desertification.

F. Education and Training

The Education and Training Programme is designed to support the scientific and technical programs of the WMO, as well as to assist in the development of the required personnel in the national meteorological and hydrological services of member countries.

Activities under the program include surveys of personnel training requirements; the development of appropriate training programs; the establishment and improvement of regional training centers; the organization of training courses, seminars, and conferences; and the preparation of training materials in the form of compendia of lecture notes, problem workbooks, and visual and audiovisual aids. The program also arranges individual training programs and provides fellowships. Training programs place several hundred specialists in advanced courses each year.

The program provides advice on education and training in meteorology and operational hydrology and on the availability of suitable training facilities. A training library is maintained. Films are provided on a loan basis to members on request.

The Panel of Experts on Education and Training serves as the focal point of the program.

G. Technical Cooperation

The WMO's technical cooperation activitiesin the form of fellowships, expert missions, equipment, and assistance for group training, such as workshops and seminarsare carried out through UNDP, the Voluntary Cooperation Programme, trust-fund arrangements, and the regular budget of the organization. Assistance has been given in support of projects ranging from the establishment, organization, and operation of meteorological and hydrological services to the application of meteorology in increasing food production and assessing alternative energy sources.

WMO's Voluntary Cooperation Program (VCP) is maintained by contributions from members to the Voluntary Cooperation Fund and to the Equipment and Services Program. Although priority is given to the implementation of the World Weather Watch, the VCP also provides assistance and supports other WMO programs in such fields as agrometeorology, hydrology, and climate. It grants fellowships to nationals of developing countries.

Under trust-fund arrangements, countries make funds available through the WMO for technical cooperation activities either in the country providing the funds or in another country.

Activities under the WMO's regular budget are only a small percentage of the total assistance and are confined mainly to the awarding of fellowships and participation in group training.

H. WMO Regional Program

WMO provides support through three regional offices and six subregional offices: Regional Office for Africa (Burundi), Regional Office for Asia and the South-West Pacific (Switzerland), and Regional Office for Americas (Paraguay); Subregional Offices are West Africa (Nigeria), Eastern and Southern Africa (Kenya), South-West Pacific (Samoa), North and Central America and the Caribbean (Costa Rica), Asia (Bahrain), and Europe (Switzerland).

The Regional Program helps bridge the gap between developed and developing countries and accelerates the implementation and operation of the World Weather Watch, operational hydrology, and Global Atmosphere Watch. The Regional Program also assists in implementing the recommendations made by the six Regional Associations and provides the necessary support to their presidents. It contributes to activities of regional intergovernmental bodies as well as to high-priority activities such as those relating to climate change, sustainable development, and protection of the environment resulting from UNCED and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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