Global statistics continue to highlight an increasing number of people who are affected by weather- and climate- related disasters while records show a corresponding increase in the number of such hazards, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on the occasion of Friday's World Meteorological Day.
"This worrying trend is counterproductive to a sustainable way of life for all world populations", says WMO Secretary General Prof. Godwin O. P. Obasi.
Natural disasters claim globally nearly 250,000 lives every year and for example over the decade 1991-2000, more than 90 percent were killed by weather- and climate-related disasters. Over the period, the events affected more than 200 million persons per year, which is seven times the number of persons affected by armed conflict.
The global annual costs for property damage lay between 50 to 100 billion US dollars. Asia has been the continent most frequently hit by hydro- meteorological disasters, accounting for 43 per cent of the total number of events and 80 per cent of the people killed during last decade.
With the theme for World Meteorological Day 2002, "Reducing vulnerability to weather and climate extremes", WMO wishes to draw special attention to the devastating impact of weather- and climate- related disasters, the increased vulnerability of humankind and the need for better response mechanisms; assessments of such vulnerability depend on the availability of climate data.
Prof. Obasi: "In the onger term, sustainable development will be determined to a large extent by projected climate change and its impact on sea-level rise, agriculture and water resources and associated natural disasters.
It is projected, for example, that climate change will lead to an intensification of the water cycle, causing increased droughts in some places and floods in others."
While well-established communities have built up their infrastructures and prospered within a general pattern of local climate to which they have adapted, extreme events with intensities outside this range can cause catastrophic failure in environmental, economic and social terms.
Severe thunderstorms with related phenomena such as tornadoes, lightning, hailstorms, strong winds, dust- and sandstorms, waterspouts and downpours can be short-lived but extremely violent.
Other phenomena and associated events that are responsible for loss of life and property damage include tropical and mid-latitude cyclones, monsoons, heat waves, cold spells, blizzards and El Nino/La Nina.
The consensus among meteorologists that the odds of a new El Nino event occurring this year are higher than they have been since the El Nino of 1997/98, is broadly based upon increasingly accurate seasonal predictions which are prerequisite for preparations and effective action in good time.
There is some evidence that the signal of El Nino events can be seen in the rainfall and temperature records across southern Europe or the reported recent flooding in Ecuador and Peru, but there are no data yet allowing the formulation of views on the likely intensity of an El Nino, should one develop.
"We are very aware of the fact that we do not automatically benefit by progress in science. It depends on how we use the resulting knowledge and tools", adds Prof. Obasi.
"Through WMO, there is a global availability of real- and near-real-time weather and climate information, which is essential for vulnerability assessment, developing natural disaster reduction strategies and early warnings.
WMO's commitment is to translate all of these advances in sciences and technology into useful products for the safety and well being of society."
World Meteorological Organization
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NOAA has the primary responsibility within the federal government to routinely provide climate forecasts and products to the nation. Most parts of NOAA are in some way involved in El Nino research, monitoring and prediction.
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