22.05.2012 - UNESCO-IOC / WMO

Oceanographers and meteorologists discuss climate change, maritime and coastal safety

The interrelationship between our changing climate and oceans which cover two thirds of the Earth’s surface will be on the agenda of an intergovernmental commission of meteorologists and oceanographers discussing improved cooperation in the face of challenges such as maritime and coastal safety and the need for more high-quality data from the ocean to support weather prediction and climate studies.

The Joint Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM) of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), meets in Yeosu, Republic of Korea, on 23-31 May to consider progress and priorities in strengthening our understanding of oceans through collective action.
The session coincides with Expo 2012 Yeosu Korea, which has as its theme “The Living Ocean and Coast."

The oceans have long been recognized as a major component of the global climate system and their interaction with the atmosphere – for instance in so-called El Niño/La Niña events – has a major impact on weather patterns and the natural variability of our climate. Now more than ever, there is a need to increase our knowledge of the feedbacks between climate, ocean and changes induced by human activities.

The JCOMM meeting will discuss how to strengthen marine meteorological and oceanographic information and services, through improved data exchange and management, through enhanced observing systems – from satellites, data buoys, tide gauges and observations from ships. JCOMM oversees global networks that feed publicly-available data in real time to research and modelling centres developing weather and climate information and services.

Disaster Risk Reduction
Disaster risk reduction on the oceans and in coastal zones is another main theme of the meeting.
Recurrent loss of life and property is caused by storm surges and extreme waves associated with severe tropical and extra-tropical cyclones. The threat is more evident in heavily populated low-lying areas, and the risk multiplies with prospects of climate change and associated sea-level rise. JCOMM has focused on responding to the urgent need to help develop improved operational forecasting and warning capabilities for marine and coastal disasters like storm surges.

Advances in satellite observations have narrowed down the error in the path and landing site of tropical cyclones, and improved the accuracy and precision of atmospheric-weather and ocean-weather forecasts. Now efforts are made to develop operational integrated forecasting and warning systems, considering various hazards in coastal zones altogether that cause coastal inundation.

WMO Members and UNESCO-IOC Member States have also responded to challenges to ensure safety at sea. For instance, sea ice is predicted to increasingly shrink as a result of climate change: the late-summer Arctic sea ice may vanish almost entirely by the middle of the century, triggering unprecedented maritime challenges, with an increase in shipping and oil and gas exploration in high-latitude waters previously covered in ice. Through collaboration with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), the worldwide system of navigational and meteorological areas associated with the Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS) has recently been expanded by JCOMM to include five new areas in the Arctic.

The meeting is expected to discuss how to improve marine environmental accident response support, such as on the radiological material discharge after the recent accident at Fukushima Power Plant in Japan in March 2011.
The JCOMM Session will also explore ways to assist the development of meteorological and oceanographic services in developing countries.  In many of these countries the communities most vulnerable to local storms make a living from fishing in the coastal zone in small, relatively fragile craft.  To help save lives, JCOMM is looking for ways to improve weather and ocean observations for the coastal zones of the developing world, to increase local forecasting capability and to improve warning systems.  

JCOMM is unique in the UN system, being a joint body of two different specialized agencies, established in 2001. As such, it serves two communities of national constituents in oceanography and meteorology, working in together on common goals in marine and ocean observations, data management, and services and forecast systems. It is a living demonstration of the UN system working as one.

In this regard the Government of the Republic of Korea, which is hosting the JCOMM meeting, has been of great assistance with strong support from the Korea Meteorological Agency (KMA), and the financial support of Expo 2012 Yeosu Korea, JeollaNamdo Province, and Yeosu City.

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (UNESCO-IOC) is the UN body for ocean science, observations, data and information exchange, and ocean services such as tsunami warning systems. Its mission is to promote international cooperation and to coordinate programmes in research, services and capacity building to learn more about the nature and resources of the oceans and coastal areas, and to apply this knowledge to improved management, sustainable development and protection of the marine environment and the decision making processes of its 144 Member States.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations, with 189 members. It is the UN system's authoritative voice on the state and behaviour of the Earth's atmosphere, its interaction with the oceans, the climate it produces and the resulting distribution of water resources. Under WMO leadership, National Meteorological and Hydrological Services contribute substantially to the protection of life and property against natural disasters, to safeguarding the environment and to enhancing the economic and social well-being of all sectors of society in areas such as food security, water resources and transport.

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