UN's World Meteorological Organisation opens regional office in Singapore

Published: 18.07.2019 Related countries:  Singapore Singapore

SINGAPORE: The United Nation’s weather and climate agency opened its first regional office in Asia and the South-West Pacific on Aug 21.

Located at the Meteorological Service Singapore’s (MSS) Centre for Climate Research Singapore at Paya Lebar, the World Meteorological Organisation's (WMO) office aims to improve hazard management coordination and to strengthen meteorological services provided to the air and marine transport sectors.

The WMO moved its regional office for Asia from Geneva - where it was initially established - to Singapore in order to bring it closer to the 58 states and territories it serves in the two regions.

Singapore was selected because of its location, flight connectivity and IT infrastructure, the WMO said in its press release. The office will be headed by WMO's Asia-Pacific regional director Chung Kyu Park.

It will focus on promoting and coordinating WMO’s capacity development programmes, particularly for projects centring on less developed countries and small island developing states.

It will also work to improve cooperation among national meteorological and hydrological services and promote sub-regional and inter-regional cooperation on developing strategies to tackle challenges the region faces.

This comes as many countries in the Asia-Pacific region are feeling the impact of climate change, including more frequent heatwaves, more intense tropical storms and trans-boundary haze, said the WMO in a press release.

The organisation's secretary-general Petteri Taalas, who officiated at the opening of the facility, said that there needs to be "regional cooperation to improve resilience and adaption to climate change from human activities".

Global air traffic is also doubling every 15 years, with the strongest growth from the Asia-Pacific region, WMO said in its press release. This means that there is greater demand for "cutting-edge aeronautical meteorological services" to help the sector provide "more effective and efficient operations, while ensuring that safety is preserved."

CLOSER COOPERATION

The new office will allow Singapore's climate research organisations and scientists to work closer with the WMO, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli.

For example, it could help to produce weather forecasts that are more accurate, which is “particularly challenging for this part of the world”, as well as a research area that the climate research centre in Singapore is trying to address, he said.

Mr Masagos, who was speaking at the opening ceremony, added that he welcomes the WMO regional office’s input on challenges that Singapore’s meteorological centres are trying to address, namely the growth of the air transport industry and climate change.

He cited data from the International Air Transport Association, which has forecast global air passenger demand to double in the next two decades from 3.8 billion in 2018 to 7.2 billion passengers in 2035. And while Singapore is expanding its airport to meet future needs, meteorological services have to be more precise to enable more “smooth, safe and seamless flights”.

In addition, air travel potentially faces greater risks due to growing extreme weather patterns in the region, which is already “highly vulnerable to rising sea levels, heavy floods and droughts”, he said.

To tackle these issues, Mr Masagos said, Singapore’s MSS is working on several initiatives, including leading an arrangement involving Malaysia and Indonesia’s meteorological watch offices to coordinate the distribution of major weather advisories that can affect flight safety over different regions of airspace.

The climate change research centre in Singapore is also developing a modelling system that can help to better predict thunderstorms, which are a potential hazard when flying.