The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It is the UN system’s authoritative voice on the state and behaviour of the Earth’s atmosphere, its interaction with the oceans, the climate it produces and the resulting distribution of water resources.
WMO has a membership of 191 Member States and Territories (on 1 January 2013). It originated from the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), which was founded in 1873. Established in 1950, WMO became the specialized agency of the United Nations in 1951 for meteorology (weather and climate), operational hydrology and related geophysical sciences.
As weather, climate and the water cycle know no national boundaries, international cooperation at a global scale is essential for the development of meteorology and operational hydrology as well as to reap the benefits from their application. WMO provides the framework for such international cooperation.
Since its establishment, WMO has played a unique and powerful role in contributing to the safety and welfare of humanity. Under WMO leadership and within the framework of WMO programmes, National Meteorological and Hydrological Services contribute substantially to the protection of life and property against natural disasters, to safeguarding the environment and to enhancing the economic and social well-being of all sectors of society in areas such as food security, water resources and transport.
WMO promotes cooperation in the establishment of networks for making meteorological, climatological, hydrological and geophysical observations, as well as the exchange, processing and standardization of related data, and assists technology transfer, training and research. It also fosters collaboration between the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services of its Members and furthers the application of meteorology to public weather services, agriculture, aviation, shipping, the environment, water issues and the mitigation of the impacts of natural disasters.
WMO facilitates the free and unrestricted exchange of data and information, products and services in real- or near-real time on matters relating to safety and security of society, economic welfare and the protection of the environment. It contributes to policy formulation in these areas at national and international levels.
In the specific case of weather-, climate and water-related hazards, which account for nearly 90% of all natural disasters, WMO’s programmes provide vital information for the advance warnings that save lives and reduce damage to property and the environment. WMO also contributes to reducing the impacts of human-induced disasters, such as those associated with chemical and nuclear accidents, forest fire and volcanic ash. Studies have shown that, apart from the incalculable benefit to human well-being, every dollar invested in meteorological and hydrological services produces an economic return many times greater, often ten times or more.
WMO plays a leading role in international efforts to monitor and protect the environment through its Programmes. In collaboration with other UN agencies and the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services, WMO supports the implementation of a number of environmental conventions and is instrumental in providing advice and assessments to governments on related matters. These activities contribute towards ensuring the sustainable development and well-being of nations.