World Meteorological Day 2020: Climate and Water

Meaghan O'Neil
23 March 2020

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World Meteorological Day celebrates the establishment of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1950. This year's theme Climate and Water coincides with the theme of World Water Day, spreading further awareness of climate change's effect on water and how water affects climate change.

Climate change is impacting everyone's interactions with water. Flood, drought, and limited clean water access are all issues we deal with more and more as climate change progresses. Count Every Drop: the WMO collects water data to better understand and address these issues. Global water demand has been increasing due to population rise, more forms of water usage, and pollution, so it becomes more important that Every Drop Counts.

Drought is a danger to many areas across the globe, but the frequency, duration, and intensity is expected to increase due to climate change. The WMO and the Global Water Partnership created the Integrated Drought Management Programme. They work together and with others to monitor drought situations, assess the vulnerability of locations affected by drought and the impact on them, create early warning systems, and respond appropriately when water becomes scarce.

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Photo Source: Pixabay

Floods are also damaging. Coastal flooding has increased due to the rise of the sea level from melting ice caps and glaciers. Changes in land use in upstream areas and changing frequency of high precipitation are causes of flash flooding and river floods in other regions. Flash flooding accounts for 85% of total flooding and is the hardest to predict.  Unfortunately, many of these areas have inadequate flood planning and maintenance. The Flash Flood Guidance System (FFGS) was created to provide real-time information using remote-sensed precipitation and hydrological models. It also incorporates local forecasters' experience and local observers' reports. The more information, the better prepared we can be.

South Africa has seen its share of flash flooding due to heavy rains. Early 2020 alone has seen floods in Johannesburg, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and Eastern Cape, some requiring evacuation, and one person did not survive the flooding in KwaZulu-Natal. The flooding has caused damage to the landscape, people's homes, vehicles, and roadways. Better information can help with earlier warning systems, helping people respond in an appropriate and timely way. South Africa is included in the Southern Africa Region FFGS.


Photo Source: City of Johannesburg EMS

Goals of the WMO include ensuring the following:

  • No one is surprised by a flood
  • Everyone is prepared for drought
  • Hydro-climate and meteorological data support the food security agenda
  • High-quality data supports science
  • Science provides a sound basis for operational hydrology
  • We have a thorough knowledge of the water resources of our world
  • Sustainable development is supported by information covering the full hydrological cycle
  • Water quality is known