Making Connections on Mountains With the World Meteorological Organization
MRI News
article written by MRI
30.07.19 | 06:07

Key reforms recently passed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) offer encouraging prospects for collaboration on our changing mountains.

So far, 2019 has been a busy year for the WMO – the specialized agency of the United Nations dedicated to international cooperation and coordination on the state and behaviour of the Earth’s atmosphere, its interaction with the land and oceans, the weather and climate it produces, and the resulting distribution of water resources. Among key reforms passed at its recent Congress in June  are encouraging prospects for coordination and collaborations on mountains. Support for the work of the WMO’s Polar and High Mountain Observations, Research, and Services (PHORS), and the upcoming High Mountains Summit in October 2019, are flagged as key opportunities to link the work of the MRI and its community to important agendas for our changing mountains.

WMO Polar and High Mountain Observations, Research, and Services

WMO article group photo
EC-PHORS-9, 29 March 2019 (Photo: WMO)As Co-Chairs of the upcoming WMO High Mountains Summit, Prof John Pomeroy, representing the International Network for Alpine Research Catchment Hydrology (INARCH), and MRI Executive Director Carolina Adler were invited to attend the 9th Session of the Executive Council Panel of Experts on Polar and High Mountain Observations, Research, and Services (EC-PHORS-9), held in Geneva 27-29 March 2019. Given the WMO reform and preparations needed ahead of that event, the EC-PHORS-9 meeting focused on framing the Polar and High Mountain Agenda for the next WMO Financial Period (2020-2023), linking to key societal benefits.

The Panel provided guidance on improving links between research and operational services, currently still considered too weak. The meeting addressed: 1) Priority activities for Polar and High Mountain regions in the next financial period 2020-2023; 2) The importance of engagement with partner organizations and high level policy bodies such as the Arctic Council and its Working Groups; 3) Antarctic activities, including the Antarctic Observing Network, relationship with the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, and development of Antarctic Regional Climate Centre; 4) The Global Cryosphere Watch (GCW); 5) Surface and space-based observations; and 6) Defining the four grand challenges to be addressed as part of the High Mountain agenda (more on this below).

As preparation for the EC-PHORS-9 meeting, Pomeroy and Adler presented a summary of a proposed High Mountain Strategy, which addresses the request stated in Resolution 27 (EC-70) to help guide WMO high mountain region-focused activities, and forms the basis for dialogue at the High Mountain Summit in October 2019. This was also an important opportunity to highlight the work and activities coordinated by both international networks, MRI and INARCH, on these topics. The Strategy was drafted with a team of international experts, which convened at the WMO earlier in February to draft the document to be presented as a White Paper at WMO Congress and the High Mountains Summit. During EC-PHORS-9, Adler and Pomeroy also participated in the discussions of ‘Breakout Group No.3 – High Mountains Regions Activities,’ later presenting a summary of those discussions in plenary, which also included excerpts of the White Paper (see Annex 21 of the final report of EC-PHORS-9).

As a result, the Panel concurred with the recommendations of Breakout Group 3, which were taken up as draft Resolution on Key Directions of the Polar and High Mountain Agenda for the next WMO Financial Period (2020-2023). These included the following overarching grand challenges:

  1. Identify and address critical knowledge gaps in mountain earth systems science, observations, and predictive capacity through advancing science, observing systems, and predictive models in the context of identifying system and societal resilience to global change and development pressures in mountains;
  2. Develop global mountain earth system observations, forecasting, and prediction systems to inform mountain communities of policy options to enhance resilience and to reduce and manage risk from mountain-based extreme events and climate change, both in the mountain headwaters and downstream; synergies with the WMO Hydrological Status and Outlook System HydroSOS will particularly be exploited;
  3. Address socially relevant user-led and rights-holders led questions and priorities on how to adapt and how to manage mountain cryosphere, ecosystems, hydrology, and development to promote ecosystem conservation, provide social benefits, and direct sustainable development along ‘climate resilient development pathways’; and
  4. Urge and facilitate the advancement of knowledge and implementation of these systems and solutions by member states and partners for mutual benefit within a global framework.

For more information about EC-PHORS and outcomes in relation to its 9th meeting and WMO Congress, please refer to the website.

For the MRI, this means that the work of its Elevation Dependent Warming and Mountain Observatories Working Groups, as well as the MRI co-led GEO Global Network on Observations and Information in Mountain Environments (GEO-GNOME), are recognised as ‘relevant activities’ for the collective work between WMO and its partners towards achieving these grand challenges. The upcoming High Mountains Summit will be an important event in which the details and roadmap for action and implementation will be defined, and we invite the MRI community to get involved!

The High Mountains Summit: 21-31 October 2019

An important outcome of the WMO Congress, is the go-ahead for the High Mountain Summit, which aims to foster high-level dialogues and engagement with decision-makers and local actors in order to develop a roadmap towards science-based, user-driven knowledge and information systems supporting sustainable development and risk reduction in mountain and downstream regions.

The Summit is expected to identify several practical projects, focusing on key priorities to be pursued by building on current scientific and funding actions directed towards specific mountain related topics and gaps at regional or national level.

The MRI, together with the Summit partners, is actively engaged in a range of relevant initiatives promoting quality observations, broad access to data, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research, and improving user-centric services (e.g., early warning systems, climate services, etc.).

To learn more about the Summit, its programme, and registration, please visit the WMO High Mountain Summit website.

For any questions regarding the MRI and its role in the High Mountains Summit, please get in touch with us at