The theme of this year’s Day was “Observing our Planet for a Better Future,” highlighting the necessity of monitoring meteorological and hydrological phenomena to aid countries in their quest to achieve sustainable economic development.
In his message marking the occasion, WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said that natural disasters are increasingly impacting developing countries, with nine out of 10 of them being linked to hydrometeorological hazards – a phenomenon that has collectively caused 1.2 million deaths and $900 million in damage between 1980 and 2000.
Natural hazards cannot be prevented, but suitable early warnings based on better observations can help to significantly minimize their harmful effects, he said.
Also, Mr. Jarraud pointed out that the number of vulnerable communities is climbing in recent decades due to increased urbanization; population shifts into fragile areas such as coasts, lowlands and floodplains; and expansion into arid areas.
“The increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme events that is expected in association with climate change will further exacerbate their vulnerability,” he noted. “Decision-makers and emergency response managers will therefore require more information to formulate the most appropriate contingency plans.”
Increasingly, information related to weather, climate and water is key to supporting agriculture, transport, energy production and water resource management, which can promote development, WMO’s Secretary-General added.
The Day will be commemorated in Geneva at WMO headquarters through addresses, films, a photo exhibition and an anthology of poems.