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Extraordinary World Meteorological Congress opens
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11th October 2021

Extraordinary World Meteorological Congress opens

The World Meteorological Organization has opened an extraordinary session of its governing Congress on key priorities including water, a comprehensive new data exchange policy and a reinforced, better-funded global observing system.

The Extraordinary World Meteorological Congress seeks to strengthen WMO policies to meet the explosive growth in the demand for weather, climate, water, atmospheric and ocean services. This is necessary in view of rapid climate, environmental and demographic change, the increasing frequency and impact of extreme weather, and its implications for human,  food and water security.

The Congress, which takes place virtually from 11 to 22 October mid-way through the traditional four-year cycle, was opened by Alain Berset, Head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs of Switzerland.

Data policy

WMO has promoted free and unrestricted exchange of weather, climate and water data – the foundation of our knowledge about the atmosphere and the climate system - since 1873 and has created a global standardized network.

The basic principles of this exchange are articulated in WMO’s data policy.  WMO is now updating and expanding the scope of its data policy in response to  the continued growth in demand for meteorological data products and services from all sectors of society., The need for this update is further exacerbated by continued  gaps in data sparse regions, by transformative changes in data, science, and technology,  and by the rapid growth of private sector capabilities and activities in meteorology.

The responsibilities of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) have expanded beyond the traditional weather, climate and water activities. WMO data policy must therefore evolve to accommodate areas such as atmospheric composition, oceans, cryosphere and space weather.

The proposed data policy update will help the WMO community strengthen and better sustain monitoring and prediction of all Earth-system components, with massive socioeconomic benefits as a result. It will lead to additional exchange of all types of environmental data, which in turn will enable all WMO Members to deliver better, more accurate and timely weather- and climate-related services.

Global Basic Observing Network

Many developing countries, especially in Africa and Small Island Developing States, continue to struggle with providing a sufficient   amount of observational data to adequately support weather and climate services. These gaps in the observational system have a negative impact on accuracy of model products underpinning early warning services globally and especially in the data sparse regions.

The Global Basic Observing Network (GBON) – the detailed specifications of which will be discussed by the World Meteorological Congress  starting this week  – represents a new approach in which the basic surface-based observing network is designed, defined and monitored at the global level. 

Once implemented, GBON will improve the availability of the most essential surface-based data. This will have a direct positive impact on the quality of weather forecasts and information that will help to improve global public safety and well-being.

In order to realize this, additional investment and capacity development will be needed for many developing countries. WMO is working closely with the international development and climate finance communities to facilitate this. 

Systematic Observations Financing Facility

The Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF) will support countries to generate and exchange basic observational data.

It will provide technical and financial assistance in new ways – applying internationally agreed metrics (the requirements of the Global Basic Observing Network) - to guide investments, using data exchange as a measure of success, and creating local benefits while delivering on a global public good.


Water stress, water-related hazards and water quality pose ever greater threat to society today. And yet, the capacity to monitor and manage this vital resource is fragmented and inadequate, as highlighted by a new WMO report.

The Extraordinary Congress is therefore due to adopt a WMO Vision, Strategy and Action Plan for Hydrology.

This envisages that “By 2030 a cooperative global community is successfully addressing the growing challenges related to hydrological extremes, water availability and quality, and food security, by advancing operational hydrology through enhanced science, infrastructure, capacity-building and related services, in the context of sustainable development and enhanced resilience. »

By 2030, more than half of the world’s population will be living under water stressed conditions. Climate change will exacerbate this and increase vulnerability to water-related disasters,

A draft WMO Water Declaration stresses the need for stronger action and for more integrated policies on water and climate change, as provided for by a new Water and Climate Coalition.

The Hydrological Assembly, an open committee of Congress, will discuss these and other related topics and provide its recommendations to Plenary.

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