Severe Weather Forecasting programme (SWFP)
The WMO Severe Weather Forecasting programme (SWFP) was started as a Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project (SWFDP) in 2006. Since its inception, it has been successfully strengthening capacity of the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) in developing countries including least developed countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to deliver improved forecasts and warnings of severe weather to save lives and livelihoods, and protect property and infrastructure. Since 2016, the SWFP in collaboration with WMO Public Weather Services Programme (PWS), is also focusing on developing capacity of the participating countries on impact-based forecasts and warnings to improve warning products and services for improved decision-making. i.e. to deliver potential effects of forecast weather on users and stakeholders. The Eighteenth World Meteorological Congress (Cg-18, June 2019) through its Resolution 15 (Cg-18) decided to remove the 'demonstration' designation of SWFDP to refer it as Severe Weather Forecasting programme (SWFP) in consideration of the fact that Project has demonstrated the capability of the cascading forecasting process.
The first SWFDP regional subproject was started in south-eastern Africa in 2006 with involvement of just 5 countries (Botswana, Madagascar, Mozambique, United Republic of Tanzania & Zimbabwe) and with contributions from RSMC Pretoria (South Africa) to provide regional severe weather forecast guidance products and RSMC La Réunion (France) for tropical cyclone forecast support. The global centres of ECMWF, UK Met Office and US NOAA/NCEP contributed for NWP including EPS products, while EUMETSAT contributed for satellite information. In 2008, this first subproject was expanded to all 16 countries in Southern Africa. The Fifteenth Session of World Meteorological Congress (Cg-XV, 2007) noted the significant development and progress of the first SWFDP regional subproject, and decided that its concept should be expanded and implemented throughout RA I (Africa) and to other WMO Regions especially in developing countries. Subsequently, in later years the project was rolled out to several other sub-regions in the world.
Currently, SWFP involves and benefits over 75 developing countries, LDCs and SIDS in eight sub-regions including Southern Africa, South Pacific, Eastern Africa, South-East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, West Africa and Eastern Caribbean, with contributions from various global and regional centres and support from donors/partners.
SWFP is primarily built on WMO Global Data Processing and Forecasting System (GDPFS), in collaboration with other relevant WMO Programmes and activities, for example Public Weather Services (PWS) Programme. It also engages other WMO programmes that concern the real-time prediction of hydro-meteorological hazards like Tropical Cyclone Programme (TCP), and Hydrology and Water Resources Programme (HWRP) for developing synergies and linkages with Flash Flood Guidance System (FFGS) in various regions including Southern Africa, South East Asia, South Asia and Central Asia etc.
SWFP uses a “Cascading Forecasting Process” (global to regional, to national).
- Global NWP centres provide available NWP and EPS products, including in the form of probabilities for a specific time frame;
- Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres (RSMCs) interpret information received from global centres, prepare daily guidance products (1-5 day) for distribution to National Meteorological Centres (NMCs) and maintain the regional centre Web site;
- National Meteorological Centres (NMCs) issue alerts, advisories, severe weather warnings to public via the media and other dissemination channels; liaise with disaster management, and certain economic sectors, and contribute feedback and evaluation of the project.
SWFP has proven to improve the lead-time and reliability for alerts and warnings about high-impact events such as heavy precipitation, strong winds and high waves. It has been strengthening engagement of NMHSs with users including media, disaster management and civil protection agencies and local communities for improved disaster risk reduction (DRR) and decision making process by users. The programme is benefiting to various socio-economic sectors as well, including agriculture, fisheries, aviation, and marine transportation.
SWFP has made contributions to the WMO Strategic Priorities for 2016-2019, especially in areas of DRR, GFCS (through climate change adaptation by building climate resilience) and Capacity Development. Now SWFP contributes to the overarching priorities and Long-term Goals for 2030 horizon and Strategic Objectives, focused on addressing the most pressing developments and needs during the 2020-2023 planning cycle of WMO as set out in the Strategic Plan. SWFP mainly contributes to the following strategic objectives of the Organization:
- Strategic objective 1.1 (Strengthen national multi-hazard early warning/alert systems and extend reach to better enable effective response to the associated risks);
- Strategic objective 1.4 (Enhance the value and innovate the provision of decision-supporting weather information and services);
- strategic objective 2.3 (Enable access and use of numerical analysis and Earth system prediction products at all temporal and spatial scales from the WMO seamless GDPFS);
- Strategic objective 3.2 (Enhance the science-for-service value chain ensuring scientific and technological advances improve predictive capabilities); and
- Strategic objective 4.1 (Address the needs of developing countries to enable them to provide and utilize essential weather, climate, hydrological and related environmental services).
Through above contributions and owing to its operational support to multi-hazard early warning systems (MHEWS) at regional and national levels, SWFP aims to support the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Sustainable Development Goals) and the Sendai Framework for DRR 2015-2030.
Countries participating in SWFP are able to benefit from advances in the science of weather forecasting, especially the dramatic development in Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) including Ensemble Prediction Systems (EPS) which give guidance to weather forecasters in advance of potential hazardous weather conditions for issuance of alerts and warnings.
The SWFP sub-regional activities are mainly financed through extra-budgetary resources from development partners and donors including governments (e.g Canada, Norway etc.), CREWS initiative, UKaid, USAID etc.
Subject to availability of resources, the SWFP sub-regional initiatives will be expanded to more geographical areas e.g. South America, South-East Europe and Southeastern Asia-Oceania to benefit more developing countries.