World Meteorological Day 2006 - E-Library - WMO

World Meteorological Day 2006 - E-Library - WMO


WMO-No. 993© 2006, World Meteorological OrganizationISBN 92-63-10993-1NOTEThe designations employed and the presentationof material in this publication do notimply the expression of any opinion whatsoeveron the part of the Secretariat of the WorldMeteorological Organization concerning thelegal status of any country, territory, city orarea, or of its authorities, or concerning thedelimitations of its frontiers or boundaries.

FOREWORDMichel Jarraud,Secretary-General ofWMO... be informed,be prepared safeEvery day, we hear and read of death, injuryand destruction caused by, or related to,weather, climate and water events. In thisday and age, with advances in technology,computer capability and communication—especially the tools developed for watching,understanding, predicting and communicatingthe world’s weather and associated earlywarnings—how and why does this stillhappen? Is there something more that canbe done?At the highest levels of government, therehave been repeated calls to address naturaldisasters that hamper sustainable developmentand accentuate poverty among themost vulnerable nations and sectors of society.These have been echoed at recentinternational conferences, including theWorld Summit on Sustainable Development(Johannesburg, South Africa 2002), the UNConference on SIDS (Mauritius, 2005), theWorld Conference on Disaster Reduction(Hyogo, Japan, 2005) and the UN WorldSummit (New York, 2005).WMO and the National Meteorological andHydrological Services (NMHSs) of its187 Members have been at the forefront ofdisaster mitigation through the operation ofa 24-hour, seven-day a week, year-roundsystem for monitoring and predicting theweather and for disseminating the forecastsand warnings of phenomena such as tropicalcyclones, flood, drought, tornadoes,lightning and associated events such asmudslides, locust development and invasion,and impacts on health. In order tofocus global attention and promote disasterpreparedness and prevention, WMO hasdedicated Word Meteorological Day 2006 todisaster mitigation. This Day is celebratedon 23 March each year to commemorate theentry-into-force of the WMO Convention onthat date in 1950.One of the major goals of WMO, NMHSs,and their systems, programmes and activitiesand their partners in disaster-preventionand mitigation communities is to reduce thenumber of deaths, injuries and damagecaused by severe weather, climate and waterevents. They give individuals, decisionmakersand other partners the informationthey need for awareness building, planning,preparedness and, when necessary, forrecovery and rehabilitation efforts. In thisway, WMO also promotes partnership in aglobal effort to save lives and to protecthuman livelihoods and well-being and theenvironment.This year, WMO would like to propose adifferent story from the ones so oftenmaking the headlines—one in which thehuman element takes centre stage. It is astory of confidence, planning, empowerment,positive action and hope. It isreflected in this booklet, dedicated to makedisaster mitigation a reality. I am thankful toMr Michael Allaby and to various othercontributors to the booklet.I encourage all to become involved, as individuals,families and communities, to workwith their respective NMHSs and disasterpreventionand mitigation bodies to beinformed, to be prepared—and to be safe.(M. Jarraud)Secretary-General2

INTRODUCTIONThe World Meteorological Organization iswell known for its scientific and technicalexpertise in watching, understanding,predicting and analysing the Earth’sweather, climate and water and forcommunicating this information to everycountry around the world in near-real time.This vigilance, every hour and day of everyyear, and the global-scale internationalcooperation that has developed amongstall countries over decades allows theNational Weather Services of WMO’s 187Member countries to generate reliable andtimely information on the state and likelyevolution of the weather. This informationforms the basis of all early warnings for thesafety and protection of people and theirwell-being and the environment.Weather, of course, is part of everyday life, anatural part of the Earth’s climate system.While it is often benign, from time to timeand in almost any part of the world, it can beviolent, in the form of cyclones, high winds,tornadoes, thunderstorms and heavy rain-,snow- or ice storms, or in associated eventssuch as storm surges, floods, mud- or landslides,duststorms, forest fires andavalanches.Windstorms 28%Volcaniceruptions 2%Forest/scrubfires 5%the world are related to weather, climate orwater.A number of studies suggest that weatherrelateddisasters appear to be growing morefrequent. However, the scientific evidencefor a significant long-term increase in thefrequency or severity of certain hydrometeorologicalhazards is not yet clear.There is also the need to recognize thevulnerability of a community, country orregion to various hazards. Vulnerability is afactor of preparedness and socio-economicconditions, including population density,Avalanches andlandslides 6% Droughts and famines 9%Floods 37%Earthquakes 8%Extremetemperatures 5%Weather, climate andwater hazards causethe great majority ofnatural disasters.The destructive power of such hazards canrange from personal injury to large-scalemortality, property and infrastructuredamage, to regional-scale socio-economicand environmental impacts: people andcommunities can and do suffer, physically,economically and emotionally. Over longperiods, even non-violent manifestationssuch as droughts can have extremely serioussocio-economic and environmentaleffects. No part of the world is immunefrom hydrometeorological hazards of onesort or another. Recent statistics haveshown that about nine out of 10 of themany natural disasters experienced aroundBillion dollars7006005004003002001000Developed nationsEconomic IossesLeast developed nationsLosses as percentageof GDP1614121086420Per cent GDPIn the last decade,developing countriesshouldered a muchgreater share of theimpact on theireconomies than theirdevelopedcounterparts(Munich Re).3

Driven by wind of more than 180 km/h,sheets of rain and blowing debris lashed thevillage for hours. The community listened tothe weather warnings on the radio andknew when the eye of the cyclone wouldpass close by, creating a temporary lull inthe violent winds and rains. When the stormabated enough and the Weather Serviceconfirmed that the immediate danger hadpassed, those sheltering in the schoolrushed out, eager to see how well theirproperty, as well as the staff and visitors atthe tourist resort, had weathered the storm.Inevitably, in a storm of this magnitude,there had been a few minor injuries andsome property damage. Crops were flattenedas they had borne the brunt ofeasterly winds and then, after a couple ofhours after the passage of the eye, thewinds from the west. However, most of thelivestock were safe; the tools and equipmentwith which the villagers earned theirliving were undamaged; there were storesof food and water to use during the clean-upprocess; and no one had died or been seriouslyinjured.Life could go on.This story shows the steps that carried thisvillage through the hazard of the cyclonewith such security. The role of WMO and theNational Weather Services in each stage ofthe process will be described, as will thoseof our partners, including the citizens themselves.While this story has a tropical setting, andthe hazard in this case is a cyclone, the fullsuite of weather-related hazards that havethe potential to cause serious socioeconomicdamage somewhere in the worldwill be touched upon. Where a person lives(or visits for work or recreation) will determinewhich of these hazards will be faced.While specific details of preparation, recovery,response and planning will vary,according to the location and the nature ofthe hazard (tropical cyclone, tornado ordrought) the steps described are goodgeneral guidance for coping with hazards ofany sort.Natural hazards posea threat tocommuntiesworldwide. Much canbe done, however, asthis booklet sets outto describe, to ensurethat their inhabitantswill be able to rideout the storm insafety and return totheir peaceful,everyday lives.5

COPING WITH NATURAL HAZARDS: FOUR-PHASENATIONAL ACTION PLANSEmergency planning and response requirescollaboration and coordination from internationaland national to local levels.National Weather Services identify andmonitor potential hazards and issue warningsand thus play a critical role inpreventing a hazard from developing into adisaster. This, however, is but one componentof the much larger “system” that mustbe in place to prevent and reduce disasters.The details of such systems vary somewhatfrom one country to another but, when theyare organized efficiently, the emergencyplan is clear and unambiguous, the warningsarrive in time and are reliable; peopleare informed and ready for action; lives andlivelihoods can be protected.Implementing a plan for dealing with anemergency involves government departmentsand agencies at every level, from thenational government in the capital to localcommunities, from local police to fire andhealth and social services. It is essential tothe success of the plan that each of thesebodies has clearly defined authority andresponsibility. Ideally, the plan and theseresponsibilities should be defined by legislationin order to remove all possibleambiguities and to impose on each body anenforceable duty to play its part.National Action Plans should have fourcomponents: mitigation; preparedness;response; and recovery with the NationalWeather Service playing a crucial role:• Mitigation involves identifying thevulnerability of every part of the countryto particular types of hazards, andidentification of steps that should betaken to minimize the risks. Thesesteps can include modifying buildingcodes to ensure that buildings canwithstand high winds, forbiddingbuilding on land that is prone to floodingand identification of evacuationprocedures. Once enacted, regulationsmust be strictly enforced. Mitigation, inessence, is long-term planning andinvolves government at many levelsincluding NMHSs, emergency servicesand the military, but also relief agenciessuch as the InternationalFederation of Red Cross and RedCrescent Societies. In the mitigationphase, all partners in the NationalAction Plan will determine what toolsand personnel they will require, whattraining to offer, what outreach productsmust be prepared and distributedto the communities in the country.The four phases of aNational Action Planwith the communityas the focus of allactions• Preparedness also involves the widercommunity. Citizens must be educatedabout the nature of the hazards theyface and how to recognize and respondsafely to them. They will become familiarwith the way in which their NationalWeather Service and emergency servicescommunicate information on, and6

HOW WMO CONTRIBUTES TO NATIONAL ACTION PLANSFOR COPING WITH NATURAL HAZARDSThrough the internationally coordinated network of the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services(NMHSs), WMO:• Monitors the weather over land and oceans, including potentially severe conditions, and predicts theevolution of all weather systems;• Uses its specialized communications systems to ensure relevant information (data, satellite images,forecasts, warnings and other products) reaches all NMHSs in a timely manner;• Ensures consistent data quality and data accessibility across national boundaries for the purpose ofimproving risk management capabilities within a regional and subregional framework, including developmentand coordination of global observing systems;• Provides expert advice and technical support to vulnerability assessment, risk-mapping and formulatingaction plans on managing disaster risk;• Collaborates in and sets standards for the training of NMHS staff to make sure they are able toaddress effectively the needs of their countries for weather, water and climate information;• Provides a wide range of educational products and services to increase public awareness of thecauses and consequences of natural hazards. In partnership with emergency services, health andsocial services, relief agencies, etc., WMO contributes to development of information and advice onhow to prevent and mitigate the impacts of weather-, climate- and water-related hazards.warnings of, severe weather.Individuals and families will havepersonal action plans, lists of emergencysupplies to have on hand and aclear understanding of coordinatingtheir own safety.Citizens must also know how best tocooperate with each other and with theemergency services. Carrying out exercisesand drills will expose any sourcesof confusion or deficiencies in the waythat information is disseminated. Eachcommunity will refine its local planaccording to its particular circumstancesand will consider contingencyplans in case any aspect of the emergencyplan fails for some unforeseenreason (e.g. a fuel shortage just prior toa storm may leave emergency vehiclesstranded). NMHSs, emergency services,health and social services, reliefagencies, etc., all have a role to play inensuring a community is prepared toface a hazard.• The response phase of the planinvolves the implementation of themeasures developed during the mitigationand preparedness phases. TheNational Weather Service will provideup-to-the-minute weather advisoriesand warnings. Emergency, health andsocial services, volunteers and citizenswill all have their own parts of the overallplan to enact, and willsystematically and calmly set aboutensuring the safety of the community.7

Access to a radiothrough a programmesuch as RANET cansave many lives.RANET is aninternationalcollaboration, guidedand supported byNational WeatherServices. Its missionis to make weather,climate, and relatedinformation moreaccessible to remoteand resource-poorpopulations.This information aidsthese populations inmaking day-to-dayresource decisionsand in preparingagainst naturalhazards.RANET combinesmodern technologieswith appropriateapplications andpartnerships at thecommunity level.• Recovery comprises the steps takenafter the event to repair the damageand reconstruct communities. All partnersin the Action Plan will assess howwell the plan worked, its strengths andweaknesses and will also begin theprocess of revising the plan for greatersuccess the next time. The NationalWeather Service will continue toprovide its usual services—the hazardmay have passed this community, butwill now likely be affecting a neighbouringarea whose inhabitants areenacting their own Action Plans.Preparedness phase of an effectiveaction planThe villagers had survived a tropicalcyclone. Also known in different parts of theworld as hurricanes or typhoons, they arethe biggest and amongst the most violent ofall storms. They develop in the tropics andsubtropics over warm ocean waters, butthey move with the circulation of the atmosphereand can bring gales and torrentialrain to places as far from the tropics asCanada and northern Europe.The villagers survived the cyclone becausethey were prepared. They had an emergencyplan. Everyone knew what to do. AndLEVELS OF WARNINGS OFAPPROACHING HAZARDSThe precise nature or scale of warning usedvaries from country to country. Generally, thefollowing three levels are common:• An advisory informs people within a designatedarea of probable weather orhydrological conditions that could lead tohazardous situations, but they are not yetsevere enough to move to the next stage ofalert. People should take note of an advisoryand be aware of any change in conditions.• A watch alerts the public of the possibility ofa particular hazard and provides as muchinformation as is available on its intensity anddirection. Such forecasts are issued well inadvance of a weather event such as acyclone, when conditions are suitable for thedevelopment of severe conditions. When awatch is announced, people should takesteps to prepare to protect their lives andproperty. Depending on the circumstances,they may need to prepare for evacuation.• A warning is a forecast of a particular hazardor imminent danger issued when extremeconditions have developed and are occurring,or have been detected. It is time to takeappropriate action.because their National Weather Serviceforecast the storm and warned that it wascoming, the villagers had time to takeappropriate action.Several days before the cyclone arrived, themedia broadcast weather advisories fromthe National Weather Service on the probabilityof a major storm for the region, andgave advice for personal and communityprotection. “Make sure you know the emergencyplan,” the broadcasts urged.8

WMO’S SPACE-BASED SURVEILLANCEA ring of geostationary satellites above the Equator provides regular images of the globe between latitudes65°N and 65°S, at more or less 30-minute intervals. The space-based constellation also includespolar-orbiting satellites and a number of research-and-development environmental satellites.This array of operational and research satellites provides almost continuous observations of manyaspects of the Earth’s weather and a picture of the evolution of climate—the march of the seasons andthe development of anomalies that lead to drought, floods and heat waves.AquaQuickScatTRMMSUBSATELLITEPOINTGOES-R(USA)75°WR & D orbitGEOSTATIONARYORBIT850 kmorbitPolarFY-1/3 (China)METEOR 3M (Russian Federation)GOES-R(USA)135°W35 800 kmTerraNPPJason-1Okean seriesGMS-5/MTSAT-1R(Japan)140°ECOMSAT-1(Republic of Korea)120°EENVISAT/ERS-2METEOR 3M N1SPOT-5MSG(EUMETSAT)0°LongitudeOther R & Doceanographic,land use,atmospheric chemistryand hydrological missionsMETEOSAT(EUMETSAT)63°ENPOESS(USA)FY-2/4(China)105°EINSATs(India)GOMS 83°E(Russian Federation)76°EMetop(EUMETSAT)GPMADEOS IIGCOM“Everyone has a part to play. Be preparedand you will survive.”When the warning reached its next level—acyclone “watch”—people in the villagebegan to act, gathering their emergencysupplies (food and water, medical supplies,blankets, radios, flashlights, etc.), makingsure they had the materials needed tosecure their property. Then, a weatherwarning was issued for the area: thecyclone was on its way, and would bedangerous. Regular activities were abandonedand school lessons ended. Since theschool had been selected as the emergencyshelter, desks and other school equipmentwere pushed to one side to make space forpeople and supplies. The school’s windowswere boarded up and the roof securedagainst the coming winds. Local authoritiesand volunteers alerted the community andvisitors, ensuring that everyone was aware9

“watch” is put in place a day or two beforethe Weather Service expects the storm toarrive. This allows individuals and communitiesto prepare, by checking theavailability of emergency supplies and otheritems they may need to protect their livesand property.When a severe storm is no more than24 hours away, the Weather Service generallyissues a more precise warning for theareas that will be at risk. At this stage,people are urged to secure their propertyand to move their families and emergencyprovisions into the place where they willwait for the storm to pass.While the warning is in effect, people areadvised to keep their radios and televisionsswitched on and tuned to the local station,to listen for sirens or street announcementsand to watch for flags or other signs used intheir community for warnings. In somecases, people may be advised to leave thearea completely. They will need to be alertfor instructions on evacuation proceduresthat will come into effect.How much ahead of time can thecommunity be warned?The time-scale of warning for tornadoes willbe of the order of minutes to hours and fordroughts could be months to seasons.In the case of tropical cyclones, meteorologistscan usually predict fairly accuratelytheir arrival 48-72 hours ahead, allowingtime for emergency plans to be put in effect.This is due to the fact that large storms arewatched from space by satellites as well astracked through land- and ocean-basedobservation programmes. Some emergencies,however, develop much more quicklythan others and, on occasion, the status ofan event can change quickly. These factorsaffect the amount of advance warningcommunities can be given, but WeatherServices strive continually to provide thelongest lead times possible for any weatherrelatedhazard.How do WMO and Weather Servicesobserve and predict tropical cyclones?Instruments carried on orbiting weathersatellites maintain a continual watch on thewhole atmosphere. Every day, their radiotransmitters feed huge volumes of data toreceiving stations on the ground. The digitalimages from satellites show cloud formations,which help meteorologists identifyweather systems, including isolated storms,storms linked together in squall lines, andlocal disturbances that may develop intotropical cyclones. Sequences of satelliteimages indicate the evolution, including thedirection and speed, of the moving storm.Data, such as wind speed and direction andmoisture profiles are used to indicate theseverity of conditions that may be experiencedat the Earth’s surface.Meteorologists regularly release weatherballoons into the atmosphere (twice a day atmany sites around the world). Theseballoons carry instrument packages thatenable the measurements of temperature,humidity, wind speed and direction andatmospheric pressure. Observations ofMeteorologistsmonitor tropicalcylones and forecasttrack and potentialconditions at landfallby satellite, hurricanehunter planes andsmall, light but robustunmanned aircraftcalled Aerosondes.11

WMO GLOBAL TELECOMMUNICATION SYSTEMNMCNMCNMCNMCNMCNMCRegionalnetworksRTHRTHNMCManageddata-communicationnetworkRTHSatellitetwo-way systemNMCRTHNMCMaintelecommunicationnetworkRTHRTHRTHSatellitedisseminationRegionalnetworksStructure of WMO’s Global Telecommunication System (NMC = NationalMeteorological Centre)The WMO Global Telecommunication System is a dedicated network of telecommunication facilities andcentres, using leased lines, satellite-based systems, the Internet, and data networks, that is implementedand operated by the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services of WMO Member countries allover the world. The Global Telecommunication System interconnects these Services to facilitate the rapid,reliable collection and exchange of all meteorological and related data, and for the distribution of weather,climate and water analyses, forecasts and warnings produced by the Global Producing Centres, RegionalSpecialized Meteorological Centres and National Meteorological and Hydrological Services. The Systemalso supports the exchange of certain other data, such as seismic data.The Global TelecommunicationSystem ensures thateach country has access tothe information it needs toprovide effective, weather,climate and water servicesand warnings to decisionmakersand the public. It isregularly upgraded, allowing itto benefit from evolvingtelecommunications technology,as well as to meetincreasing requirements.Already, the TsunamiWarning System for thePacific uses the WMOSystem to collect andexchange tide-gauge data.The Global TelecommunicationSystem is also thebackbone for the distributionof Tsunami Warning System bulletins to countries of the Indian Ocean rim and for the Interim TsunamiAdvisory Information Service. It makes an important contribution to the collection and exchange of dataneeded for the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System, especially those on sea-level from tide gaugesthat are acquired through the data-collection services of meteorological satellites.NMCNMCNMCNMCNMCNMC• Collaborative: Those receiving andusing the forecasts must understandthe hazards and the risks they pose.Emergency services must ensure thatthe official forecasts are the onesconsistently used in their planning andaction, to reduce confusion. TheNational Weather Service will see itsefforts result in more effectiveresponse to, and recovery from,hazards, through development ofstrong partnerships with all levels ofdecision-makers involved in disasterprevention and mitigation.14

Mitigation phase: long-term planning forthe communityThe tropical cyclone in this story is not theonly one this community has ever seen. Infact, the community has been struck bycyclones a number of times in the past,sometimes a glancing blow, with minordamage and a few injuries. Once, however,several years ago, a cyclone of terriblestrength swept through the community andcaused great damage and loss of life. It wasvery hard to recover and move on from thisevent. The people in the community sawhow much this cost them, in terms of theloss and injury of family and friends,damage to or total loss of homes andpossessions, and in terms of their ability tomake a living in the aftermath.The planning processThey vowed that such a catastrophe shouldnever happen again if they could help it.The government helped them make a planthat would cope with another dangerousevent. Living where they did, experiencetold them it would be inevitable.The process began with a visit from a teamof meteorologists, hydrologists, civil engineers,coastal zone managers, disasteremergency managers and representativesof relief agencies. The topography andsoils around the village were examinedand the villagers questioned about whathad happened in past storms. The mostlikely path that water, mud, rocks, treesand other debris would take as torrents ofrainwater wash everything downhill wasdetermined.The teams identified the areas most likely tobe safe from such runoff and from fallingdebris and where buildings and their occupantsand their livestock would have thebest chance to survive the winds and waterof a severe storm. They inspected the buildings,roads, bridges and other infrastructurein and around the community, to assesswhat needed to be reinforced.Such decisions are a matter of availableresources and also experience. In somecases, “traditional” architecture has provedto better withstand local hazards. In coastalmanagement, mangrove forests in the landseainterface have proved to provideprotection against storm surge and coastalerosion.Severe storms can bring down power andtelephone lines and wash out roads andbridges, cutting communities off from therest of the world. People must be preparedto survive until communications and transportationare restored. The local communityand the emergency experts workedtogether to list the emergency supplies andequipment that would be needed during,and while recovering from, the crisis. Theselists include hand-operated radios andflashlights, blankets or sleeping bags,camping stoves and fuel for cooking andboiling water and the amounts of food andwater each person would need. They alsoreminded those people in need of medicationto keep enough on hand to last untilregular supply lines were re-established.Severe storms andstorm suge candestroy valuableinfrastructure such asthis hospital in Niue,South Pacific, whichhas to be replaced atgreat cost.15

It is vital in theplanning process atthe community levelto identify potentialhazards andappropriate safetymeasures.People should knowwhere they can seekshelter for themselvesand for their livestock.Vital factors in this process are the nature ofthe hazard itself and vulnerability assessment.It is essential that the communityknows what hazards it may face, the associatedrisks and how they happen. TheNational Weather Service responsible forthis community prepared information onthe hazards and their power and what warningswould be provided and by whom. Theyworked with partners in the emergencyservices and the government to prepare abooklet and other outreach materials thatgave this information, as well as advice onhow to maximize safety and information onthe local and national services where furtheradvice and information could be found.Every household in the community receivedthis booklet from the government but, asnot everyone was able to understand everythingfrom this process alone, a number ofpublic meetings were held.Representatives of the emergency serviceswent through the procedures everyoneshould follow for each type of hazard,described the assistance that would beavailable and made sure everyone knewwhere and how to find help.Government officials explained how thevillage emergency plan formed part of amuch larger national strategy—the NationalAction Plan. Representatives of non-governmentalrelief organizations such as theInternational Federation of Red Cross andRed Crescent Societies also offered adviceand explained what they would do to help.The relief organizations were also gatheringinformation for their own use. They neededto know, for example, how they could reachthe village; where they could deliver aid ifthe roads became impassable; and whom tocontact during the crisis.As part of the Action Plan, responsibilitieswere assigned, so that everyone understoodwho had authority over each step.Finally, once the villagers were familiar withthe plan, they rehearsed it. To ensure that allwould run smoothly when the hazardoccurred, the community then revised itsplan to take into account any problems thathad been encountered in the drill.Formulating the National Action PlanScientists from the National WeatherService provided information and advice onthe weather, water and climate hazards towhich this community could be exposed.16

Response phase: how the community“weathered” the weather hazardThe community has taken refuge in theschool. They have done what they couldto safeguard their property and to keepthemselves safe from the storm. Andwhat a storm! Inside the school, volunteerskept the children busy, looked afterthe elderly and checked the radio fornews. The wind and rain battered thebuilding, flinging branches and otherdebris at its walls and roof, making apounding, relentless din. Rainwaterrushed through parts of the community,heading for the coastline—a fast-movingriver of water, earth and anything foundloose in its path. The media kept transmittingnews of the storm, and where itwould pass. Because this community hadbeen informed, they understood thatthere could be only a temporary abatementof the winds and rain if the eyepassed over the village. It would not besafe to expect that the worst was overbecause the winds had stopped.The emergency supplies came in handy—everyone kept warm, had food and water,light and news—small comforts given theconditions, and given the memories of asimilar storm a few short years before.The pain was still real for many. Thistime, though, there was a feeling ofhope—and confidence that they wouldwithstand this cyclone.Of course, the storm eventually dieddown, The National Weather Service gavethe good news that the last band of rainsand winds had passed, and the communitywould be out of danger once theflash flooding had abated. The informationprovided by the meteorologists andhydrologists had impressed the peopleabout the power of moving water. Theyknew not to try to walk or drive through it,even if it appeared shallow. Opening thedoors, those who had sheltered in theschool prepared to take stock of the stateof their community in the aftermath andto implement the immediate, short-termand long-term measures in their ActionPlan.The response phase:assessing the damage17

Flooding can cut offcommunities andsupply routes fordays.Recovery phase: cleaning up, rebuilding,and getting ready for the next oneLife does not generally return to normal atonce after a severe weather event. Theeffects can last for some time and muchwork is usually needed to repair thedamage. A recovery period must be part ofthe action plan for coping with extremeweather hazards.When the school doors opened, there wasno rush to head for home. A small party hadbeen assigned the responsibility of first ofall making sure that the streets and buildingswere safe. The storm had beenpowerful and floodwaters were still coursingthrough the village. Keeping well awayfrom the flooding, the team began itsinspection. They looked for downed powerand telephone lines; ruptured water, gas orsewage lines; damage to roads and bridges;broken glass and spilled noxioussubstances. They looked out for injuredpeople. They also looked for snakes andvermin that might have been dislodged bythe storm or floodwaters. The teaminformed the authorities of their findings.It was quickly apparent that the vegetationand crops had taken a beating. The livestockhad fared better, especially those that hadbeen taken to higher ground. Most of thebuildings were still standing, but all werechecked for structural damage. No one butskilled workers would be permitted to entera building declared unsafe.Trained volunteers checked the local supplyof drinking water for signs of contamination.Until it was declared safe, no one would beallowed to collect and use water from anywell or from the river that passed through thevillage. The action plan had accounted forthis. The community had set aside enoughdrinking water to last for several days.As soon as their homes were declared safe,people returned and began the clean-up. Forthe unlucky ones, whose homes were not safe,temporary accommodation was organized.The villagers had had a setback, but not acatastrophe. Implementation of the actionplan had kept the people safe. This wasmuch better than before. Thoughts turnedquickly to re-building—and to new buildingswhich would be less vulnerable,stronger, out of the way of possible floods.Next time, things would be even better.The role of the National Weather Service didnot end with the passing of the storm. Thestorm may have left this place but was stillcausing havoc elsewhere along its path. TheWeather Service continued to forecast thefull life span of the cyclone, but alsoremained vigilant regarding the weather forthe villagers entering their recovery period.The relief teams and citizens, working to getthings back to normal as quickly as possibleneed to know if further weather-relatedchallenges will complicate, obstruct orprevent recovery efforts. In a scenario inwhich not all citizens have been shelteredfrom the hazard, as in our story, relief andrecovery efforts will begin with a search forsurvivors and for the dead. Medical andfood supplies will have to be moved into thestricken area by road, air or sea. This mustall be done as quickly and as safely aspossible. Relief teams need to be able torely on round-the-clock support from theWeather Service until the crisis is over.18

SOME OF THE DANGERS IN THE AFTERMATH OF A DISASTERExtreme weather events are often responsible forconditions that pose serious threats in the aftermathof a disaster. In collaboration with theNational Weather Services, disaster preparednessand mitigation bodies provide information that isuseful to the public in thwarting these dangers. Anon-exhaustive list is given below:• Flash floods: After heavy rains, floods or flashfloods are a common occurrence. Movingwater is a powerful force. It can damage roadsand bridges and sweep away even heavy vehicles.Head for higher ground. Do not attemptto drive through, or walk through moving floodwaters - even 15 centimetres of moving watercan knock adults off their feet. When walkingin still water, use a stick to test the ground infront of you.• Falling masonry: The disaster may havecaused serious structural damage to buildings.Walls may collapse without warning and interiorfloors and stairs may be unsafe. Buildingsmay have been moved off their foundationsand roofs may not be firmly attached to theframe. Allow damaged buildings to beinspected by experts before going near them.• Electric shock: Power lines may be down andsome of them may be live. It is not only thecables that are dangerous: water can be electricallycharged from underground or bydowned power lines. Stay away from downedpower lines and do not go near floodwaters—live cables may lie in the water. If safe to doso, shut off power at circuit breakers.• Fire and explosion: Gas pipes and gasolinereservoirs at filling stations may have beenruptured, presenting a serious risk of fire. Gasand gasoline fumes are toxic and can causeasphyxiation, and they can also cause anexplosion, if they accumulate in an enclosedspace. Escaping gas can be smelled or heardby a hissing sound. If you smell or hear gas,leave immediately. Shut off the gas at anoutside valve if possible. Do not use openflames.• Toxic chemicals: Floods can wash householdand commercial chemicals outdoors intosurface water and can carry away drums ofchemicals that may rupture. Surface watercould be contaminated with oil, gasoline, agriculturalchemicals including pesticides, and awide variety of other substances. Stay awayfrom floodwaters as they may be contaminatedwith toxins.• Water-borne disease: Floods can overwhelmsewers, mixing raw sewage with surfacewater. There is a risk of disease such ascholera and dysentery. Wait for the authoritiesto declare tap water safe and, in the interim,only drink water known to be safe—or boil itfor at least three minutes. Always wash handswith soap and clean water after coming intocontact with floodwaters.• Wild animals: Animals, including vermin andvenomous snakes that spend much of thetime in burrows or crevices may have beendriven from their retreats and may be dangerous.Beware of snakes and vermin that mayhave been dislodged by the storm.Falling masonryrepresents a dangerin the aftermath of adisaster.19

PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR HAZARDS ONDIFFERENT TIME-SCALESOver the years, this community has learnedto plan and prepare for tropical cyclonesand associated phenomena, such as floodsand landslides. Elsewhere, other communitieshave to face other hazards which are ofdifferent size and occur on completelydifferent time-scales.Tropical cyclones are large, powerfulsystems, whose life cycle and behaviour arewell known and whose movements arepredictable 48-72 hours ahead. Meteorologistscan observe and forecast the onsetand evolution of both tropical and extratropicalcyclones, and can track them quiteeasily. Other hazards, on the other hand,behave quite differently, with each havingits own unique features which must becoped with. The planning cycle of mitigation,preparedness, response and recoverywill consequently be somewhat different foreach hazard. The examples of tornadoesand droughts will highlight certaincommonalities and specific differences inrecommended responses.TornadoesA great deal is known about tornadoes, theirawesome power and destructive capability,and in which regions they are most likely tooccur. Tornadoes are violent windstorms,characterized most often by a visible, twisting,funnel-shaped cloud that reaches fromthe thunderstorm cloud base to the ground.Tornados are spawned from severe thunderstorms(they also sometimes result fromtropical cyclones) and can be accompaniedby lightning and hail, and by heavy rainsthat can result in flash floods.A tornado can last from minutes to morethan an hour, but most last for 10-20 minutes. This short life-span makes thewarning of tornadoes one of the most difficulttasks for National Weather Services,which are the official sources of tornadoforecasts. Because tornado development isquite well understood, the conditions likelyto cause them can be seen up to a day ortwo in advance in model output. TheWeather Service forecast teams areextremely vigilant, consulting satellite andradar imagery, studying data from windprofilers,land stations, upper-air balloons,and lightning sensors, for early signs ofdevelopment. Too many small-scale factorsare involved for accurate forecasting severaldays ahead of convective activity. Also,tornadoes are eccentric during their shortlives. Detailed predictions of how many willform or the path along which they will travelare therefore not possible at present.The tornado is themost violent weatherphenomenon of all.National Weather Services, specializedprediction centres and research institutesstudy tornadoes, their occurrence, characteristicsand risks, and develop forecastingtechniques and warning services that can beof considerable use in mitigation andpreparedness phases. Climatological infor-20

Examples of therange and scales ofnatural hazards thatare observed,detected, monitoredand forecast by WMOnetworks.mation is used to strengthen building codesand helps influence structural design forextreme wind situations. In the short-term,the National Weather Service issueswatches for and warnings of tornadoes.When a watch is called, people are advisedto locate their family members and makesure everyone has access to shelter. As withany other hazard, it is wise to have on handan emergency kit with a flashlight, radio,first-aid materials, emergency food andwater and essential medication.If a tornado is seen, or if radar shows thecharacteristic signs of one developing, theWeather Service will immediately issue awarning. People will perhaps have onlyminutes to take shelter. Experts advise thatsafe shelter would be a windowless, interiorroom in a basement, or the lowest placepossible in a building—a small inner roomlike a closet could be safe. It is important tostay away from windows because of breakingglass, and to get out from underwide-span roofs such as in auditoriums. Ifcaught outdoors, people are advised not totake shelter under a bridge, to get out of theircars and to lie low in a ditch (but to beware offlash flooding).Once the tornado has passed, it is wise tostay tuned to the National Weather Servicebroadcasts, in case there is more to bebraced for. People are advised to stay out ofdamaged buildings until they are inspected,to avoid downed power lines and to be alertto chemical spills, water contamination, gasleaks and fires.DroughtsDroughts are normal climate events. Theyare not at all rare but their characteristics,such as duration and severity, can varyconsiderably in both time and space.Droughts are caused when, over an extendedperiod of time, a region experiences a deficiencyof precipitation or a long-termimbalance between precipitation and evapotranspiration.Droughts can be related totiming of precipitation during a rainy seasonor the effectiveness of the precipitation. Inother words, the amount of rainfall receivedduring a season could be “normal” but itmay all occur at the end of the period orcome only in short, intense downpours thatimmediately run off. Human activity and thedemand on available freshwater resourcesTornado damage21

Australia suffereddrought in the1997/1998 and1981/1983 El Niñoevents. (Photo:Australian(GovernmentDepartment ofForeign Affairs andTrade)for use by people and livestock, can exacerbatethe impacts of a drought.Droughts can result in loss of agriculturalproductivity and extensive crop failures,both of which contribute to reduced viabilityof the economy and to increased healthrisks for the human population and livestock.Severe droughts can lead to famineand starvation. Drought can cause migrationof people and herds, leadingsometimes to civil unrest and politicalissues. Dehydrated vegetation is vulnerableto wildfires and barren land is vulnerable towind erosion and loss of topsoil. All thesefactors can contribute to desertification.WMO and National Weather Servicesdevelop climatologies of drought andconduct research into its causes. Togetherwith research institutes, global predictioncentres and partners in organizations suchas the United Nations Food and AgricultureOrganization (FAO), public information andmaterials for decision-makers are developedand incorporated into long-term mitigation,planning and preparedness efforts. Thisinformation—particularly reliable predictionsof very dry or very wet seasons or years,can be extremely useful to partner agenciesand governments which have to allocatetheir available resources early in each financialplanning cycle.Droughts develop slowly, and their onsetcan be masked by a number of factors.Many of the atmospheric and oceanicconditions that could lead to drought arewell known, however, and, in many parts ofthe world, scientists have developed reliableseasonal predictions related todrought. Research shows that the El Niño-Southern Oscillation can be a reasonablepredictor for drought in some regions,particularly in the tropics. Regional specializedDrought Monitoring Centres, in Harare,(Zimbabwe) and Nairobi (Kenya) wereestablished to monitor, study and predictdroughts and other hazards in Africa.Similar centres exist in other countries.Seasonal to interannual prediction ofhazardsMost people recognize that the weather hascertain seasonal characteristics—pronounced warm or cold or wet or dryperiods. In addition to these seasonalcycles, meteorological and ocean scienceresearchers have identified a number ofoscillations, or cycles, in the way the atmosphereand oceans interact over time toproduce varying weather patterns.The Madden-Julian OscillationThe Madden-Julian Oscillation, for example,is a roughly periodic behaviour oftropical convection that influences tropicalconvective rainfall and the formation oftropical cyclones. This cyclic behaviour,coupled with frequent analysis of satelliteimagery, allows reasonable prediction ofactive convection areas, including themovements of the Inter-TropicalConvergence Zone (ITCZ) over Africa and22

the South Pacific Convergence Zone nearSamoa in the Pacific.El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)The best known natural fluctuation ofclimate is the ENSO phenomenon. TheSouthern Oscillation is a large-scale atmosphericfluctuation centred in the equatorialPacific Ocean. It is characterized by a pressurefluctuation between Australasia andthe South Pacific that is accompanied byvariations in wind strength, oceancurrents, sea-surface temperatures andprecipitation in the surrounding areas. ElNiño is traditionally associated with anextensive warming of sea-surface temperaturesacross the central and easternequatorial Pacific Ocean. El Niño eventscan last for several months to more thanone year. The opposite phenomenon, LaNiña, is an extensive cooling of sea-surfacetemperatures in the equatorial PacificOcean, lasting from seasons to more thana year. ENSO, therefore, is a feature of theinteraction of atmosphere and ocean andlinks the fluctuating temperatures of theequatorial Pacific Ocean with changingwind, cloud and rainfall patterns in thetropical Indo-Pacific region.ENSO is a primary reason for climateanomalies that may last a season or morein many parts of the world, particularly(but not exclusive to) the tropics. ENSOrelatedshifts in tropical convection triggerchanges in middle- to high-latitude westerlywinds, which, in turn, alter theevolution of storm systems far beyond thetropics. Although no one ENSO event isexactly the same as another, there arecertain general characteristic patterns ofENSO impacts on regional and localweather and climate.ENSO events have been responsible formajor socio-economic impacts around theworld throughout history. In recent times,the events of 1982/1983 and 1997/1998have made El Niño a household term.During the 1997/1998 El Niño, believed tohave been the strongest of the 20thcentury, severe drought in Indonesia led towidespread wildfires that cast a pall ofsmoke over a wide area of South-East Asia.The worst drought of the century, coupledwith exceptional cold in the New Guineahighlands led to serious food shortages for1.2 million people. North-eastern Brazilalso experienced drought. At the sametime, there were extensive rains in tropicalEast Africa, and some 15 000 people diedas a direct result of floods and ensuingdisease. Australia suffered drought(although it was worse in the 1982/1983event). In 1997, the June-November hurricaneseason in the Atlantic was thequietest on record up to that point. Chinaand the Philippines also saw reducedstorm activity.ENSO is now well understood and scientists’ability to predict it is improving. Withlarge arrays of instruments monitoringconditions across the oceans, and increasinglysophisticated computer models,meteorologists can detect the early signsthat an El Niño is about to develop andpredict ENSO conditions three to sixmonths ahead with reasonable skill. Thisinformation is shared on a continual basiswith National Meteorological andThe El Niño/SouthernOscillationphenomenon is nowwell understood andability to predict it isimproving.23

PLAGUES OF LOCUSTSWeather informationfacilitates theprediction of theformation andmovement of locustswarms, as well ascontrol operations.(Photos: FAO)Every few years, unusually high rainfall makes vegetationflourish in a semi-arid region. With abundantfood for their offspring, female locusts lay manymore eggs than usual. The wingless young, calledhoppers, feed peaceably, avoiding contact with oneanother, until the vegetation becomes sparser withthe return of dry weather. The hoppers are crowdedmore closely together and individuals meet moreoften.Then a change comes over them: they no longeravoid one another. When two individuals meet, theytend to stay together, feeding all the time, andwhen two groups of hoppers meet they merge toform a larger band. The insects continue to growand when they mature they sprout wings. When theadult locusts have eaten all the vegetation around them they move away in search of more, as a swarm.Despite covering large distances, locusts are weak fliers and swarms drift with the wind, travelling up to200 km a day.A locust swarm can comprise as many as 80 million insects and a locust outbreak—a plague—cancomprise several swarms. One million locusts will eat nearly two tonnes of food a day: about as much as10 elephants, 25 camels or 2 500 people.The National Weather Services of affected countries help track the swarms by monitoring and forecastingmeteorological conditions. They work closely with those engaged in locust control. WMO and theUnited Nations Food and Agriculture Organization advise national weather and locust control services.Hydrological Services around the world sothey can advise citizens and decisionmakersof emerging threats.WMO El Niño updatesWMO regularly coordinates scientific opinionworldwide and, when conditions sowarrant, produces “El Niño updates”, aconsensus-driven assessment of the anticipateddevelopment of ENSO for monthsahead. These updates are issued to WeatherServices and to the public, and have provedto be reliable and useful products.MonsoonsAnother well known and predictable majorweather feature is the monsoon. Monsoonsoccur in Australia, Africa and North andSouth America, but the best known andmost studied are the East Asian and Indianmonsoons. Predicting the onset, intensityand cessation of the Indian and East Asianmonsoons is of immense value to thepeoples of these regions. Late arrival of theIndian monsoon in June or July, or earlywithdrawal in August or September, forexample, can ruin crops and lead to greathardship.24

PLANNING FOR ENVIRONMENTAL EMERGENCIES ANDCLIMATE CHANGEHuddled together within the confines of theschoolhouse for the duration of the emergency,the elders of the village recalledtheir own experiences and those passed onto them by their parents and grandparents.The children listened to their stories aboutthe devastating cyclones and otherphenomena—flash floods, tornadoes, lightningand bushfires—that had left a lastingmark on the village and its inhabitants.The villagers had heard discussions aboutclimate change on the radio and televisionand read about it in the newspapers. Theywondered if their local climate was changing.Most of the villagers earned their livingfrom the land and the sea. They speculatedabout potential impacts of a changingclimate on their livelihoods and on foodsecurity. In recent years, the population hadbeen growing and new industries had cometo the region. The villagers were becomingconcerned about air and water pollution.They had the idea of requesting the authoritiesto advise them about climate changeand its potential impacts, as well as on environmentalemergencies to enable them totake timely preventive and mitigation measuresas they were already doing for tropicalcyclones.It is the responsibility of NationalMeteorological and Hydrological Servicesto detect, observe and forecast extremeevents related to weather or water and towarn of impending risks of these naturalhazards. WMO’s system also allows observationand warning of the movement in theatmosphere and in water of chemicalsubstances, particulate matter and contaminants.Meteorologists monitor chemicalsubstances or living organisms that remainairborne for any length of time, as well asthe drift of ash and gases from volcaniceruptions and of pollutants resulting fromindustrial accidents. Hydrologists track themovement of oil and other contaminantsthat enter rivers, lakes, seas and oceans.Working through the National WeatherServices, WMO helps in these tasks by facilitatingthe smooth flow of observations,forecasts and other information betweencountries, The global system that WMOcoordinates includes the EmergencyResponse Activities (ERA).Based on the capabilities of their NationalWeather Services, ERA assists countries torespond effectively to environmental emergencies.Emergency Response Activitieshas been built in collaboration with theInternational Atomic Energy Agency, theWorld Health Organization and the UnitedNations Food and Agriculture Organization.It centres on the round-the-clock services ofeight designated Regional SpecializedMeteorological Centres (in Beijing, China;Exeter, United Kingdom; Melbourne,Australia; Montreal, Canada; Obninsk,Russian Federation; Tokyo, Japan;Toulouse, France; and Washington, USA).These centres share the responsibility forproviding warnings and information, forexample on the atmospheric transport anddispersal of pollutants, as part of internationallycoordinated response plans.Initially developed to deal with nuclear accidents,ERA is expanding and enhancing thecapabilities of National MeteorologicalServices to respond to emergencies arisingfrom volcanic eruptions, forest and wildlandfires, airborne disease organisms andchemical accidents.The observational data and forecasts ofweather, climate and the atmosphere thatare collected through WMO’s network of25

observing, data-transmitting and forecastingsystems are vital inputs to variousinternational environmental conventionson climate change, desertification, air quality,biodiversity and the ozone layer.Policy-makers are thus kept informed of thestate of the environment so that they maybe in a better position to prevent its furtherdegradation.Climate change and weather extremesIt is generally agreed that the global meansurface temperature has increased by 0.6°to 0.7°C since 1860, when instrumentalrecords began. Recent years and 2005 inparticular have been among the warmestobserved over several centuries. At thesame time, statistics from centres such asthe Center for Research on theEpidemiology of Disasters show that thereis an upward trend in the number ofextreme weather and climate events. In2005, the number of hurricanes in theAtlantic basin reached an unprecedentednumber. The cost of such events to theinsurance industry is also growing considerably.In the mind of everybody, thequestion is whether the patterns in theextreme weather events being observed arethe result of a change in climate.While these questions are the subject ofintensive studies and research, scientistsare increasingly aware of the implications ofpotential climate change on extremeweather events. The assessments, based onclimate model outputs, of the IntergovernmentalPanel on Climate Change(coordinated by WMO and the UnitedNations Environment Programme) indicatethat climate change is likely to result inmore intense precipitation and associatedflooding over many mid- to high-latitudeareas in the northern hemisphere. In otherareas, there could be increased summercontinental drying and associated risk ofdrought conditions. There may be anincrease of heat waves over land areas;people living in an urban environment areparticularly sensitive to such increases. Theimpact of climate change on tropicalcyclones, especially with regard toincreases in number, frequency, windstrength and precipitation intensities, is asubject of intense research.Current projections of El Niño events overthe next 100 years show little or no changeor a small increase in amplitude. Even withlittle or no change in El Niño, global warmingis likely to lead to greater extremes ofdryness and of heavy rainfall and anincrease in the risks of droughts and floodsthat occur with El Niño events around theworld.Monsoons affect various parts of the globeand are vital for the livelihood of the peopleaffected by them. Heavy monsoon rainslead to flooding while weak monsoons26

often result in drought conditions. Climatemodels indicate that global warming maycause an increase of Asian summermonsoon precipitation variability, whileconfidence in the projections of monsoonmean duration and strength is limited.For some other small-scale extremephenomena, such as thunderstorms, tornadoes,hail and lightning, which havesignificant impacts on the environment andsociety, there is currently insufficient informationto assess recent trends and climatemodels currently lack the spatial detailrequired to make confident projections ofthese phenomena.Extreme weather andclimate events27

BEING PREPARED SAVES LIVESAdapting existingbuildings to withstandsevere weatherevents is aninvestment in safety.Above: properinstallation of blocksbeneath mobilehomes will ensurefewer instances ofdamage during aflood. Below: a house,originally built in afloodplain, was raiseda level to save it fromfuture flooding.(Photos: Dave Gatley/FEMA News Photo)The experience of the village communityprovides lessons for all communities,including those in urban environments. Weshall look at the real-life example ofBangladesh, practical advice on how toprepare individually and collectively, thebenefits of investing in safety, and the internationalcooperation that is essential ifcommunities around the world are toachieve and continue to enjoy a high levelof safety.The Bangladesh exampleEmergency plans that help people preparefor and respond to natural disasters savelives.The experience of Bangladesh provides anexcellent example of the benefits of planningand preparation. The authorities spent10 years establishing integrated early warningservices to safeguard people fromhazards caused by tropical cyclones, stormsurges and tidal and river floods. The projecthas largely succeeded in establishingimproved observation and communicationsystems and close cooperation between theNational Meteorological Service and thedisaster preparedness community. It hasdeveloped nationwide alert mechanismsbuilt on a network of more than 5 000 volunteers,as well as other mechanisms todeliver critical warnings and advisories tocommunities at risk. These warningsystems, combined with programmesbased on local cultures, educate andprepare people to respond to emergenciesappropriately. This, together with activitiessuch as building shelters in coastal areas,has saved many lives. For example, in 1998,a major storm surge led to nearly 140deaths. This loss is high but, in a storm ofsimilar magnitude in 1991, 130 000 peoplelost their lives. In 1970, some 300 000perished in the storm surge that sweptacross the deltas of the Ganges andMeghna Rivers.WMO has supported developments such asthose in Bangladesh and recently made asignificant contribution in the form of aregional project on flood management atvillage and household levels that aimed toensure the effectiveness of public warningmessages. The project proved its worthduring the severe monsoon rains of 2004.The tsunami alert-and-response mechanismin Bangladesh will be built on the currentnational alert and response system forstorm surges.Taking responsibilityAn emergency action plan involves institutionsat many levels, from nationalgovernment to local councils, but it is notenough to wait for officials and the emergencyservices to shepherd everyone tosafety. Individuals and families shouldtake responsibility for their own safety andthat of their homes.There is much that individuals can do toprotect themselves. Those living in areasat risk should lay in supplies of boarding28

HOW INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES CAN PREPAREThere are steps anyone can take to prepare for a natural emergency. Not all of the advice given hereapplies everywhere, but much of it does.• Find out where you can obtain reliable informationabout potential hazards in your area.• Learn about the official plan for dealing with anemergency arising from extreme weather,water, and climate conditions.• Find out whether the area where you live hassuffered emergencies in the past, what typesof hazard they were, how frequently theyoccurred, and the type and extent of thedamage they caused.• Study the surrounding area: identify low-lyingplaces that are at risk of flooding and placesthat are exposed to high winds.• Identify escape routes from your home andmark them on a map. Remember that a stormmay make a route across low ground orbridges impassable, so if you have to evacuateyou will need to leave before the stormarrives. Keep the “escape map” in a safe placeand make sure everyone in the householdknows where and what it is.• Obtain good-quality flashlights or lamps anda reliable battery-powered or hand-crankedradio. Make sure they are in working orderand that you have spare batteries.• Obtain a camping stove and fuel for cookingand heating water.• Prepare a first-aid box.• Learn basic first-aid skills.• Make a list of the supplies you and yourhousehold (including pets) will need to survivefor two weeks.• If you are evacuated you may need blankets orsleeping bags.• If possible, arrange to stay for the duration ofthe emergency with friends or relativesoutside the affected area.• Where most people have access to cellphones, ask someone who lives outside thearea to act as a contact through which familymembers can communicate their location andsituation should they become separated.• Obtain supplies of wood, plywood sheeting,polythene sheeting, nails, and rope for boardingup windows and securing external doors.29

Building techniquesadapted to a region’sclimate can help savedamage and injuryfrom natural hazards.More generally, there are preparationseveryone can make to increase theirchances of surviving a severe hazard ofany kind (see box on page 29).The need for worldwide collaborationfor monitoring the weatherContinual observation of the world’satmosphere and oceans requires scientificcollaboration on a global scale. The villageof our story survived—and others can alsosurvive—because, in large measure, theNational Meteorological and HydrologicalServices receive the information they needfrom other national, regional and globalcentres to prepare and issue timely warningsthrough the WMO cover their windows and doors and ropeto secure outdoor items that could bedislodged by wind. Those living in a regionprone to tornadoes should prepare a stormshelter where they can take refuge. If thereis a risk of flooding from a nearby river,householders can keep a supply of sandbagsready to make exterior doorswatertight. Snow shovels and a store ofsalt and grit will help reduce the impact ofice and heavy snow.Good house and ground maintenance alsohelps. Check there are no loose or missingtiles or slates on the roof. The wind willenter through such small gaps and exert anupward force from beneath the roof thatmay be strong enough to cause seriousdamage. Make sure gutters and drainpipesare free from obstruction. Remove old orweak trees and branches and shrubs thatcould blow about in a strong wind.The modern technology meteorologistsuse to gather, analyse and communicateinformation is very costly. Meteorologicalsatellites, for example, are manufactured,owned and operated by those countries orgroups of countries that have a spaceprogramme. Most countries cannot affordto develop or operate satellites on theirown. Nor can they always afford advancedelectronic instruments or the supercomputersneeded to process vast quantitiesof atmospheric and oceanic data in realtime.The international collaboration thatfosters the transfer of data from groundstations, ocean buoys, ships and aircraft,prediction output from models, satellitedata and products, maps and imagery,etc., between major centres and NationalWeather Services is an important aspect ofWMO’s philosophy and service.It is WMO’s objective that all essentialinformation is made freely and quicklyavailable so that Weather Services can dotheir part to ensure the safety and securityof people around the world.30

NationalMeteorological andHydrological Servicesare on duty all day,every day of the year.(Photo: NEXRAD)The economic impactof natural disastersshows a markedupward trend overthe last few decades.Getting the warnings outIt is essential to put in place mechanisms forcommunicating warnings to the people atlocal level who are in danger and must takeaction to protect their lives and property.Long-distance communication from anemergency management centre can be bytelephone, e-mail or radio, but somecommunities may not have the necessaryequipment. A community that cannot becontacted will have no chance of implementinga prepared plan before a hazardstrikes. Access to a radio, such as throughthe RANET (Radio and InterNET)programme or a computer link to theoutside world could save many lives (seepage 8).Investing in your Weather Servicepays offFor an emergency plan to succeed, thosewho must implement it will need access toreliable and understandable informationand forecasts that can be incorporated intothe decision-making process leading toappropriate action. The National WeatherServices that produce these forecasts areexpensive to run, however. Modern meteorologistsrely on a wide range ofinstruments and equipment and, as technologyadvances, items like computersmust be upgraded or replaced at fairlyfrequent intervals. In addition to the cost ofthe equipment, life-cycle maintenance ofobserving instruments, the cost of weatherballoons, for example, and communicationscosts (including access to the Internet andsatellite data feeds), have to be considered.Because atmospheric conditions areconstantly changing, National MeteorologicalServices must remain active andalert for the 24 hours of every day, everyday of every year. Meteorologists and technicalstaff work shifts to ensure that theService is always vigilant. Meteorologistsprepare the routine weather forecasts thatare broadcast on radio and television,printed in the press or shared over theInternet, and the more specialized forecastsfor sailors, fishermen, farmers and others,who need more detailed information.3000250020001500100050001970s 1980s 1990sNumber of reporteddisastersNumber of reported killed(thousands)Number of reported affected(millions)Damage (billions US$)One of the most important responsibilitiesof Weather Services is to detect theapproach of weather conditions that may bedangerous, and issue the timely warningsthat save lives, at any time of the day ornight.The need to be on permanent watch and tobe able to communicate, at any time,atmospheric, ocean and terrestrial data,forecasts and warnings of severe weatherrelatedhazards makes Weather Services avery strong partner for communication oftimely information on other types of32

hazards as well. In the aftermath of the 2004tsunami that devastated parts of Asia, WMOis increasingly working in concert withother international agencies, in particularthe Intergovernmental OceanographicCommission (United Nations Educational,Scientific and Cultural Organization) toensure that its communications and observationscapabilities, its expertise in earlywarnings, and the 24-hour watch responsibilityof the Weather Service in each countryare part of the global plan to prevent such adisaster from ever happening again.Government decision-makers need tounderstand that investment in NationalWeather Services is needed and that it isworth the expense. It is not easy to determinethe socio-economic benefits ofweather, climate and water services, butgovernments and funding agencies increasinglyrequest this information fordecision-making. They should be aware thatthe cost-benefit ratio of effective warning isat least one to seven.Amongst other considerations is the cost ofthe impacts of extreme weather, in terms oflives lost and net economic losses. In anydisaster, however, not all those affected areaffected negatively. In the aftermath of ahurricane, for example, the lumber andconstruction industries can often find theirbusiness prospects much enhanced. Insome places, cyclones bring in muchneeded rain. Innumerable people, however,lose a great deal—sometimes everything—in violent weather. In the world as a whole,PREVENTING ONE DISASTER FROM FOLLOWING ANOTHERAlthough WMO and many National Meteorological and Hydrological Services do not advise on emergencyplanning relating to hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, that areunconnected with weather or water, they can and do help in the aftermath of such disasters. Theysupply regular local weather forecasts to help relief workers and advice on the siting of facilities such asrefugee camps. For instance, they can warn that a particular site, although logistically convenient, islikely to be flooded in the event of heavy rain.On 28 October 2005, following a huge earthquake, the Pakistan Meteorological Department releaseda seasonal weather report warning that the region was likely to experience a harsher-than-averagewinter. Snowfall was expected to exceed the norm both in frequency and quantity. This long-range forecastindicated that temperatures in mountainous areas would remain below freezing throughoutJanuary. At night they would sometimes fall to below -20°C. The forecast had a direct bearing on anestimated three million people who survived the earthquake, as well as on the plans of the humanitarianand relief organizations working to save lives throughout the region.In Niger, in 2005, people were struggling against prolonged drought. Future harvests remained uncertainand many people, especially children, were suffering from malnutrition exacerbated by diseasessuch as malaria and diarrhoea. Weather forecasts helped those trying to overcome the disaster. TheMeteorological Service provided seasonal, ten-day, and seven-day weather forecasts and assessmentsof accumulated precipitation—important for predicting crop yields.The Direction de la Météorologie Nationale of Niger and the African Centre of MeteorologicalApplications for Development were aiding the Food Crisis Management Unit and other organizations intheir efforts to tackle the country’s food crisis. WMO assisted these institutions in obtaining the relevantdata and forecasts.The costs ofpurchasing,maintaining andrepairing equipmentare high but the needis vital and the fruitsare tangible.33

WMO, through itsunique globalnetwork operated bythe NationalMeteoroloogical andHydrological Services,does its utmost toensure that theworld’s citizens arekept safe from theadverse impacts ofnatural hazards.(Photo: ACMAD)over the last decade, natural disasters arisingfrom extreme weather or climateepisodes such as drought cost at leastUS$ 450 billion. That is a huge amount. It isalmost two-thirds of the total cost of lossesdue to natural disasters of all kinds.How much could be saved, through provisionof weather information and forecastsas part of an effective emergency actionplan? WMO is taking steps to help NationalWeather Services develop the tools andknowledge that will allow them to preparethis kind of information for their governmentsand partner agencies.Natural disasters impose costs that go farbeyond the repair of homes and thereplacement of private property. A countrythat suffers a disaster of this kind has nochoice but to divert some of its resources torestoring essential services. Roads, bridges,rail tracks and power and telephone linesmust be repaired so that the country cancontinue to function. Public buildings suchas schools and hospitals must be made safeor rebuilt. Water and sewerage systemsmust be restored urgently, to preventoutbreaks of disease. The injured mustreceive medical treatment. All theseunavoidable costs must be met fromresources that might otherwise have beeninvested in development projects.The danger passedBack in the village, life is starting to returnto normal. The damaged buildings arebeing repaired and those that weredestroyed are being rebuilt. The communityis grateful to have withstood the cyclonewith only minor damage.They understand that another cyclone willstrike—this is part of living in this place. Theyknow that their National Weather Service willmake sure it does not strike without warning.And they now know that they have an emergencyplan that works. It saved lives andprotected their livelihoods. It was worth theeffort.No one is immune from the risksassociated with weather, climate andwater hazards, but we do not have towait helplessly while our lives andlivelihoods are in danger. WMOcollaborates with the NationalMeteorological and HydrologicalServices of each country to help theirpopulations plan and prepare, so thatthey may survive and recover and builda better future.34

Photo credits:E. Al-Majed, Météo-France, Kyoto News/Japan,NOAA, FAO/G. Diana, South Australia Metropolitan Fire Service, ICRC, DigitalGlobe, ISDR, Randy Williams.Despite our efforts, we were unable to identify the photographers of some of the photos.Their photos have been included in the belief that they would want to share their work with WMO.For more information, please contact:World Meteorological Organization7bis, avenue de la Paix - P.O. Box 2300 - CH 1211 Geneva 2 - SwitzerlandTel.: (+41) 22 730 83 14 - 730 83 15 - Fax: (+41) 22 730 80 27E-mail: - Website: www.wmo.intClimate knowledge – for the benefit of

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