Press release archive: 2004

WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud: The natural disasters may increase with the climate change

17.3.2004 12:00

The new Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organisation, WMO, Dr Michel Jarraud pays his first visit to Finland 15-17 March 2004. The World Meteorological Organization is an intergovernmental organization with a membership of 187 Member States and Territories. Established in 1950, WMO became the specialized agency of the United Nations for meteorology (weather and climate), operational hydrology and related geophysical sciences. During his visit, Dr. Jarraud will discuss the future role of the WMO with regard to global issues like the climate change, mitigation of natural hazards as well as the availability of the water resources. These topics are prioritized highly also by the Finnish Meteorological Institute in its research and services.

Michel Jarraud points out that statistics over the last decade show that over 80 % of all natural disasters are of meteorological and hydrological origin. The possible increase of the number of the occurrence of such disasters is a subject to a further research. The FMI has played an active role in supporting the observational systems as well as weather and climate services in about 45 countries around the world during the last 20 years. The achievements have contributed positively in preparing for natural hazards, saving lives and property. The quality of weather services in all countries is very much dependent on the functioning of the global observational network. From the point of view of the WMO, Finland and the FMI can participate in the mitigation of damage caused by natural disasters. WMO wishes Finland to contribute also in the future to the enhancement of the weather and climate services of the developing countries.

WMO wishes to stress that the climate change, as indicated by the research community, has a global dimension. All of its impacts are not yet known. The worst scenarios are valid for societies that live near the sea level. Hundreds of millions of people would be affected. As a consequence of changing rainfall and drought conditions the food production of the world may be jeopardized, which would have an impact on the world economy and needs for foreign aid programs. The countries have varying technical and economical capabilities to adapt to the changes, which stresses the importance of the global responsibilities.

The man is changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere through his industrial activities and changes in land use. Green house gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, are released into the atmosphere. The present concentrations are higher than those during the past thousands of years. These gases cause warming via the atmospheric physical processes related with radiation. The average temperature near the Earth's surface has increased since the pre-industrial era by almost one degree Celcius. The increase can not be explained without the effect of man, i.e. to have been caused only by natural effects. Using climate models, and scenarios of the increase of green house gas concentrations, we can estimate the future changes in temperature and other atmospheric variables. Uncertainties in the estimates arise as we do not know exactly the future behavior of mankind, and the models are not perfect. The results obtained indicate that the global mean temperature will rise by 1-6 Celcius degrees by the end of the century. The change is not the same everywhere due to regional variability. Besides the temperature change, also average precipitation is estimated to increase. Other effects are withdrawal of glaciers, rise of the sea level and the changing rainfall and drought conditions.

More information:

Prof. Petteri Taalas, Director General, FMI, +358 9 1929 2200
Prof. Mikko Alestalo, Director General, FMI, +358 9 1929 4100