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Global Multi-hazard Alert System (GMAS)

Early and authoritative warnings of weather, water, ocean and climate hazards produced by National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) have proven to be very effective in reducing loss of life and damage to property. They provide the foundation on which early action by the responsible authorities and the public can be realized. As hydrometeorological hazards impact increasingly exposed and vulnerable populations and their assets, often across political boundaries, there is a need for these warnings and related information from all countries to be made more easily accessible in a timely manner.

The WMO Global Multi-hazard Alert System (GMAS) is poised to be the WMO framework for substantially increasing and enhancing the availability of authoritative warnings and information related to extreme and/or potentially high-impact weather, water and climate events – regionally and globally. GMAS is intended to be a highly visible and accessible resource for such official warnings and a driver and vehicle for (1) identifying gaps in capability, (2) facilitating investments by development partners and capacity development to generate and disseminate these warnings; (3) promoting outreach to those at risk and to decision-makers, taking into account global mobility; (4) improving visibility and recognition of national alerting authorities – including NMHSs – by key national, regional and global users and stakeholders; (5) harmonizing and standardizing specific warning parameters; as well as (6) promoting cross-border cooperation.

To achieve these objectives, GMAS will leverage, strengthen and help sustain national early warning systems (EWSs). Such systems enable individuals, communities, governments, businesses and others to take timely action to reduce disaster risks in advance of hazardous events and typically consist of four key elements: (1) disaster risk knowledge based on the systematic collection of data and disaster risk assessments; (2) detection, monitoring, analysis and forecasting of the hazards and possible consequences; (3) dissemination and communication, by an official source, of authoritative, timely, accurate and actionable warnings and associated information on likelihood and impact; and (4) preparedness at all levels to respond to the warnings received. These four interrelated components need to be people-centred, coordinated within and across sectors and multiple levels for these ‘systems of systems’ to work effectively and include feedback mechanisms for their continuous improvement. While these systems are often conceived for one specific hazard or hazard cluster, multi-hazard EWSs address several hazards and/or impacts in contexts where hazardous events may occur alone, simultaneously, cascadingly or cumulatively over time and considering the potential interrelated effects. Such an EWS with the ability to warn of one or more hazards increases the efficiency and consistency of warnings through coordinated and compatible mechanisms and capacities, involving multiple disciplines for updated and accurate hazards identification and monitoring for multiple hazards.

WMO is currently implementing a new methodology for Cataloguing Hazardous Events (WMO-CHE) which will provide essential inputs into elements (1) and (2) of an EWS. The methodology uses modern database methods that are hierarchy-free (no tree structure to store data) and facilitates flexibility of analysis. It centres on identifying hazardous weather, climate, water, space weather events and other related environmental phenomena uniquely. Related events can be grouped and linked to larger scale systems which will reduce the risk of event double accounting.

Other WMO systems - including the WMO integrated Observing System (WIGOS), WMO Information System (WIS), Global Data-Processing and Forecasting System (GDPFS), or WMO’s Space-based Weather and Climate Extremes Monitoring (SWCEM) - provide indispensable inputs and global and regional support to the national EWSs, especially elements (2) and (3) of such systems.

GMAS will harness these existing and future WMO systems, mechanisms and infrastructure, recognizing and highlighting the ownership of Members. For example, WIS can be leveraged to maintain a repository of official warnings, alerts and related information and to distribute this information to authorized users without extra costs for the NMHSs. GMAS will further benefit from the alert hub technology, the World Weather Information Services (WWIS), and the developing Severe Weather Information Centre (SWIC). The latter would provide a web-based user interface with a map display, ensuring the attribution of warnings and information to NMHSs and GDPFS centres. GMAS will also leverage existing (sub)regional warning mechanisms and platforms (e.g. the European MeteoAlarm), as well as several WMO flagship training programmes and demonstration projects.

GMAS is thus a WMO framework mechanism which will enable NMHSs to make available and disseminate authoritative warnings and advice to all WMO Members and a global audience, including the general public, so that they can make better preparedness and response decisions. It will be designed to comply with WMO regulations, relying on and promoting standards as well as wider trainings, partnerships, advocacy, and the application of new technologies.