Above photo: (From left) WMO Secretary-General Prof Petteri Taalas and Singapore Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Masagos Zulkifli exchanging the Host Country Agreement. Photo credit: NEA
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) opened a new office for the Asia-Pacific region in Singapore on August 21 2017 to improve coordination on hazards ranging from floods to fires and to strengthen meteorological services for rapidly evolving economic sectors such as air and marine transport. The Regional Office is being hosted by the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) and will serve as the nerve centre for WMO’s programmes in the region.
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas and Singapore Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, officiated the opening ceremony of the new Regional Office for Asia and the South-West Pacific. The ceremony was held at the MSS Centre for Climate Research Singapore (CCRS), where the Office is co-located. This is the first time a WMO Regional Office will be located within Asia and the South-West Pacific and the second Regional Office to relocate from Geneva.
Many countries in the Asia-Pacific region are already feeling the impact of climate change, including more frequent heat-waves, more intense tropical storms, and coastal inundation resulting from sea level rise, threatening food, health and water security. Air pollution and trans-boundary haze, environmental degradation and water stress add to the challenges.
“Weather, climate and water know no national borders. We need regional cooperation to improve resilience and adaptation to climate change from human activities and to prepare for naturally occurring events such as the powerful 2015/2016 El Niño, which caused widespread drought in Asia and the Southwest Pacific,” said Mr. Taalas.
“In the last decades, the countries of the Asia-Pacific region have been exposed to rising land and ocean surface temperatures and weather and climate events of increased intensity and frequency,” said Mr. Taalas. “The year 2017 is proving to be no exception to that trend.”
An important priority for the Regional Office is therefore strengthening regional cooperation and coordination and implementing WMO’s capacity-development initiatives. This will benefit not just WMO Members but also the user sectors and stakeholders that they serve.
A key beneficiary is the aviation sector, one of the most weather-sensitive of all economic sectors. The sector is undergoing a transformation driven by rapid growth. Global air traffic is doubling every 15 years, with the strongest growth centred on the Asia Pacific region. There is an increasing need within the sector for more effective and efficient operations, while ensuring that safety is preserved. This in turn drives demand for cutting-edge aeronautical meteorological services, which need to be seamless and coordinated at the regional level.
Natural and environmental hazards are another area of concern. The Regional Office will work with Members to foster greater cooperation in multi-hazard early warning for the region. Such efforts will be complemented by capacity-building programmes. The Regional Office will act as a forum for regional challenges such as trans-boundary haze arising from large-scale land and vegetation fires.
“Climate change, the impending exponential growth in global air traffic demand, and the transformation of global air management systems to be more interoperable and harmonised, will significantly change the operating paradigm for our national meteorological services. Maintaining status quo is no longer an option. Meteorological information must be of higher precision and accuracy to tackle these three new challenges effectively,” said Mr. Masagos. “This is why Singapore has been investing heavily in cutting-edge climate research and building up our expertise to improve our understanding of the dynamic tropical weather patterns in our region. This will enhance the precision of our weather predictions.”
Singapore was selected because of its central position relative to WMO Asia and Pacific Member states, flight connectivity, and modern and accessible IT infrastructure. The Regional Office is headed by WMO Asia-Pacific Regional Director Chung Kyu Park, who will relocate from WMO headquarters in Geneva.