UN weather agency sets up regional office in Singapore

Mr Petteri Taalas of the WMO said the office should be fully operational by early 2019.
Mr Petteri Taalas of the WMO said the office should be fully operational by early 2019.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) opened its regional office in Singapore yesterday.

The regional office for Asia and the South-West Pacific will help address climate-related challenges such as the haze.

It will also help countries better predict natural disasters, such as droughts, floods and typhoons, by providing scientific expertise and coordinating efforts between different meteorological services.

Its work will cover 58 nations from the Middle East to the Pacific Islands, and it will help implement WMO initiatives such as early- warning disaster services.

The office, which is relocating from Geneva, Switzerland, will be at the same location as the Centre for Climate Research Singapore in Kim Chuan Road. The centre is a unit of the Meteorological Service Singapore.

WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas said the office should be fully operational by early 2019, and will employ 10 staff from both the WMO and Singapore.

He added that it would cost around US$3 million (S$4.1 million) to run yearly, with costs split roughly equally between the organisation and Singapore.

The Republic was chosen for its central location, strong regional connectivity and modern IT infrastructure, the National Environment Agency said in a statement yesterday.

The WMO is a United Nations agency for weather and the climate. It offers free, unrestricted and real-time exchange of weather information across borders.

Its presence in the region is expected to benefit the weather-sensitive aviation sector, as it can help synchronise weather warnings for planes flying in different flight information regions.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, in his address at the opening ceremony, said: "The South- east Asian region is highly vulnerable to rising sea levels, heavy floods and droughts. For the aviation sector, in particular, fluctuating climate extremes overlaid with... dynamic tropical weather patterns in our region can be hazardous to flights and air travel if we are not prepared."

He also said it is "particularly challenging" to produce highly accurate and precise weather forecasts for South-east Asia.

This is because of a lack of complete regional weather data, and because the climate modelling systems here originated from temperate countries and had to be tweaked for the tropics.

Mr Masagos said the WMO would bring in resources, scientists and data to help improve the modelling systems in Singapore.

Mr Taalas said: "We expect that by moving the office here, we will provide better meteorological services, and that world-leading know-how in the WMO family will be more accessible to developed and developing countries in the region."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2017, with the headline 'UN weather agency sets up regional office in Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe