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Why We Need to Monitor the Weather during a Pandemic

 

As the world’s gaze remain focused on the pandemic’s threat, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) addressed COVID-19’s impacts on the quality and quantity of weather observations and forecasts, as well as atmospheric and climate monitoring.

 

On data gathering

The WMO’s Global Observing System, the backbone of all weather and climate services consisting of 193 member states including the Philippines, provides observations on the current state of the atmosphere and ocean surface. Gathered data is used for weather analyses, forecasts, advisories, and warnings. But now that the coronavirus disease has spread in more than 200 territories, the job of providing accurate and timely weather forecasts becomes more difficult.

“The impacts of climate change and growing amount of weather-related disasters continue, as we have seen with Tropical Cyclone Harold in the Pacific, and the floods in East Africa. As we approach the Atlantic Hurricane season, the COVID-19 poses an additional challenge, and may exacerbate multi-hazard risks at a single country level,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas stated. 

The World Meteorological Organization then reiterates the importance of paying attention to national early warning and weather observing capacities especially in relation to worst-case scenarios, including the possibility of a prolonged pandemic..      

 

On surface, marine, and space-based observations

According to WMO, most developed countries use surface-based weather observations that are fully-automated. However, many developing countries, wherein the transition to automation is still in progress, still depend on manual observation.

The same concerns were raised with marine-based observations. WMO said that ocean-observing systems also rely on a high degree of automation, and most parts are expected to continue working well for a only a few months more. The need for observing systems to be calibrated, maintained, and resupplied may be overlooked because of the pandemic.

“These human links in the observation and data delivery chain are highly vulnerable to current lockdowns and mandatory teleworking policies,” WMO explained. 

On a positive note, the present crisis revealed the importance and stability of space-based observations. According to WMO, the satellites are operated by the members of Coordination Group for Meteorological Satellites (CGMS) and of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS). These space-based observing systems remain fully-operational and unaffected by the possible long-term impacts of COVID-19. 

 

What now?

At this point, it is easy to conclude that the pandemic clearly highlights the importance of resilient weather-observing systems. Like the pandemic, the impact of weather-related disasters may threaten our lives. 

Paying attention to early warning signs and preparing for worst-case scenarios should be the priority of all countries, even during a pandemic.