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Meteorology at the millennium
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Chinese Science Bulletin , 56 , — Zhou, J. Zhang, and B. Acta Meteorologica Sinica , 69 4 , — Moberg, A. Sonechkin, K. Holmgren, N. Today, with a much larger membership that comprises countries and territories, WMO has expanded its mandate to include water and environmental issues.
Moreover, scientists and medical professionals are increasingly aware of the critical linkages between weather, climate, the composition of the air we breathe and their effects on human health. For many centuries, humans managed reasonably well to adapt to the impacts of weather and climate by adjusting shelter, food production, energy provision and lifestyles in harmony with climatic and environmental conditions.
However, over the last decades, population growth, increased energy usage and industrial development have contributed to the emission of gases and particles that can, and do, affect human health. Thus, asthma, heart disease, lung cancer and many other medical conditions have been exacerbated, or even caused, by declining air quality. In addition, air pollution impinges on the global economy, food and water security and sustainable development, by damaging plants, crops and ecosystems.
It is interesting to recall that Hippocrates c. At the time of Hippocrates, it was generally accepted that there were just four elements: earth, air, fire and water with their corresponding qualities of coldness, dryness, heat and wetness. If these were present in the human body in the right amounts and at the right places, then good health resulted, but if the equilibrium was destroyed, then so too was health. Today, we know that trace gases and particles in the air have a significant impact on climate, weather and air quality. Meteorologists, climatologists and atmospheric chemists are currently contributing to the mitigation of the impacts of weather, climate and the quality of the air we breathe by working together to provide medical professionals and environmental scientists with predictions and analyses of the atmospheric distribution, concentration and transport of gases and particles in the atmosphere.
As early as the s, WMO was pioneering the coordination of atmospheric composition observations and analyses. Information on greenhouse gases, aerosols and ozone, as well as the classic meteorological and hydrological observables is now acquired regularly, using global networks of surface-based in situ and remote-sensing stations, balloon-borne sondes, aircraft and satellites. This has contributed to understanding the changing chemical composition of the atmosphere and has formed the scientific basis for our present knowledge of the effects of weather and climate on air quality, as well the reciprocal impacts of air constituents on our weather and climate.
In this respect, WMO has been actively involved in international efforts to assess our evolving atmosphere in terms of air pollutants such as ground-level ozone, smog, particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide, most of which have directly resulted from the industrial, urban and vehicular combustion of fossil fuels.
Today, WMO continues to support these vital international mechanisms for global action. Many of the air-pollutant by-products of the industrial revolution are also responsible for other changes that we currently perceive in our climate, that are outside the range of natural variability that we had come to expect from astronomic and geophysical effects alone.
It is the UN system's authoritative voice on the state and behavior of the Earth's atmosphere, its interaction with the oceans, the climate it produces and the resulting distribution of water resources.
Established in , WMO became the specialized agency of the United Nations in for meteorology weather and climate , operational hydrology and related geophysical sciences. WMO facilitates the free and unrestricted exchange of data and information, products and services in real- or near-real time on matters relating to safety and security of society, economic welfare and the protection of the environment.
It contributes to policy formulation in these areas at national and international levels. WMO promotes cooperation in the establishment of networks for making meteorological, climatological, hydrological and geophysical observations, as well as the exchange, processing and standardization of related data, and assists technology transfer, training and research.