World Meteorological Day – The Ocean, Our Climate and Weather

The theme of World Meteorological Day 2021 emphasizes the important role of the ocean in shaping climate and weather

World Meteorological Day showcases the essential contributions of meteorological processes and services and how they contribute to the wellbeing of society. This year, the theme for the day – “The Ocean, Our Climate and Weather” – brings attention to the importance of the ocean in shaping weather and climate. The day is registered as an official activity of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

The World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), co-sponsored by the ISC, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), coordinates efforts to study fundamental questions regarding the ocean and climate, and their interactions.

With the ocean covering about 70% of the Earth’s surface, it absorbs most of the solar energy that reaches the troposphere. The ocean also absorbs carbon dioxide related to human activities and heat trapped by human-generated greenhouse gases. Over 90% of the extra heat generated by anthropogenic carbon emissions is stored in the ocean, with only about 2.3% warming the atmosphere. As such, the atmosphere is warming less quickly than it otherwise would. However, as a recent WMO article warns, “This should not lull us into inaction, however, as ocean warming only delays the full impact of climate change”.

As temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, the ocean is already facing consequences such as thermal expansion, melting sea ice, and coral bleaching. Studying the ocean is therefore essential for understanding climate change.

This World Meteorological Day, WMO has curated a number of resources on the ocean and climate change and how the ocean shapes weather and climate. WMO will also be holding a webinar to celebrate the day at 12:00-14:00 UTC on March 23, 2021, to celebrate World Meteorology Day. You can register here.

The oceanic element of this year’s World Meteorological Day theme also works to raise awareness for the United Nations’ Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, which officially began in 2021. The ISC is contributing to the UN Decade of Ocean Science by promoting the Decade in its community of members and partners.

The 2017 Global Ocean Science Report found that ocean science accounts for only between 0.04% and 4% of total government research and development expenditures worldwide. The Ocean Decade helps to mobilize action in priority areas. In a statement released to mark World Meteorological Day, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas emphasized the importance of free and open access to data on the ocean:

Major gaps in data over the ocean hinder our ability to accurately forecast weather at extended time scales and, more so, sub-seasonal to seasonal. The WMO Data Conference in November 2020 recognized major gaps in data, particularly over the ocean. It highlighted the need for free and open access to Earth system data, to maximize the overall economic impact of these data.

Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization

The issue of gaps in data on the ocean was also raised in recent ISC blogs relating to the Decade, such as in an interview with Lysa Wini-Simeon on ocean governance for the Solomon Islands. The ISC is taking action during the Ocean Decade by shedding light on issues relevant to the Decade through blogs, webinars, and other updates, and you can find a number of recent outputs here.

You might also be interested in:

A Guide to SDG Interactions: from Science to Implementation

This report, published by ISC’s predecessor organization ICSU in 2017, includes a detailed examination of four Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their interactions with other Goals. One of the SDGs included in this analysis was SDG14: Life Below Water, the chapter on this topic can be accessed here.


Photo by Sara Stasi from Unsplash.

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