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The challenge

Missing foundational data for climate adaptation and resilient development

Improving our ability to forecast extreme weather events and predict the changing climate is critical to manage risks effectively, understand adaptation needs and plan accordingly with systematic and anticipatory action. Climate change and extreme weather events are now threatening lives and hampering global efforts to reduce poverty. Accurate weather forecasts and climate prediction is critical for all sectors and in particular for those that rely heavily on weather and climate, such as agriculture, transport, renewable energy and insurance.

Surface-based weather observations underpin weather forecasts, early warning systems, and climate information everywhere. Global Numerical Weather Prediction models are the backbones of all weather forecasts and climate prediction products. These systems require continued access to a wealth of real-time weather data from the entire globe. Surface-based observations are fundamental to the quality of the output of these models. These observations are essential to measure certain weather parameters that cannot yet be reliably measured from space and they play a vital role for calibration and validation of satellite weather data.

The current gaps in global surface-based data sharing significantly impact the quality of weather and climate information locally, regionally and globally. While some parts of the globe provide a reliable feed of these data, many others contribute only limited amounts and, in several instances the amount of data shared is even declining.

In Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) the data gaps are striking. Despite substantial investments in observational infrastructure supported by development finance institutions in these countries, there has been limited lasting improvement in global data sharing. In fact, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts observed a dramatic decrease in the number of shared radiosonde data (the most important surface-based data for weather prediction models) of almost 50% in Africa from 2015 to 2020. This situation does not include the further decline in observations since January 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19.

The principal reason for the mismatch between investments and limited improvement in global data sharing in SIDS and LDCs is the fact that these countries have not been able to operate and maintain their observational infrastructure. Providing these countries with the means and the incentives to invest, operate and maintain weather observation systems will have a large payoff in terms of long-term weather data collection and sharing and, ultimately, improvements in national and global development outcomes.

The opportunity

The Global Basic Observing Network

In 2019, the World Meteorological Congress and its 193 member countries and territories agreed to establish the Global Basic Observing Network (GBON). As a landmark agreement, GBON offers a new approach in which the basic surfacebased weather observing network is designed, defined and monitored at the global level.

GBON sets out a clear requirement for all WMO Members to acquire and internationally exchange the most essential surface-based observational data at a minimum level of spatial resolution and time interval.

Achieving sustained compliance with the GBON requirements needs substantial investments, strengthened capacity and long-term resources for operation and maintenance in many countries. 

The solution

A new way of financing surface-based observations

The Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF) supports countries to generate and exchange basic surface-based observational data critical for improved weather forecasts and climate services. SOFF contributes to strengthening resilient development and climate adaptation locally, regionally and across the globe, particularly benefiting the most vulnerable.

SOFF has four key features to provide long-term financing and technical assistance in an effective way. It has a unique focus and complements and supports existing funding mechanisms.

1. Deploying a global approach with sustained international data exchange as a measure of success
2. Providing innovative finance
3. Enhancing technical competence and integrated approaches
4. Leveraging knowledge and resources.

 

The implementation

A sequenced approach

A 10-year implementation period and three phases of support.

SOFF support is provided in three phases:

1. Readiness

SOFF will support countries to assess their national hydromet status, define the national GBON gap and develop a plan to close the gap. All beneficiary countries will undergo the Readiness phase. 

 

2. Investment

Countries will receive support for capital investments in GBON infrastructure and to developing GBON human and institutional capacity to operate and maintain the observing network.

 

3. Compliance

Countries will receive support to sustain compliance with GBON in the long-term and to access improved weather forecast and climate analysis products. This includes the provision of results-based finance for GBON-compliant countries to contribute to cover operational and maintenance costs and ensure continuous data sharing. 

 

SOFF has an initial 10-year horizon. Based on feedback from the Funders’ Forum, on bilateral conversations, and the practice and experience of other UN MPTFs, SOFF is established as a 10-year programme with a modular implementation approach, and an initial focus, including for fundraising, on the First Implementation Period.

There will be three implementation periods of the 10-year programme:

  • Start-up Period (6 months from the time minimum capitalization is secured
  • First Implementation Period (3 years)
  • Expansion and Sustaining Period (6½ years) 

The target

An ambitious undertaking

SOFF establishes a highly ambitious long-term target of achieving sustained GBON compliance in all SIDS and LDCs.

10 Year programme with a modular implementation approach

USD 200 M Funding needs for the 3-year first implementation period

75 SIDS and LDCs supported to become GBON compliant and accessing improved weather and climate products.

12X More data shared from upper-air stations

28X More data shared from surface stations

A UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund

A UN coalition

SOFF has been created as a Multi Partner Trust Fund jointly established by WMO, UNDP and UNEP. As a UN Coalition, SOFF will maximize complementaries, its impact and visibility.

SOFF partners

SOFF Steering Committee

The Steering Committee oversees SOFF activities and decides on its strategic direction. It approves and amends SOFF governance documents and operational guidelines, ensures that SOFF operations are consistent with its mandate and objective, and ensures complementarity between SOFF and “last mile” initiatives. 

SOFF Advisory Board

The SOFF Advisory Board brings together the most important SOFF stakeholders. Its objectives are to ensure that SOFF creates synergies with major adaptation and resilience initiatives, linking SOFF with “last mile” policy and investment decisions; and ensure that the SOFF strategic direction evolves as GBON evolves. UNDP and UNEP co-chair the Advisory Board.

SOFF Secretariat 

The Secretariat coordinates operations and ensures coherence of action by the many SOFF partners. It operates under the overall guidance of the Steering Committee and is accountable to it. The SOFF Secretariat is hosted by WMO and responds to WMO administrative policies and procedures.

SOFF Implementing Entities

Major multilateral development partners that play an important role in hydromet project implementation serve as SOFF Implementing Entities for the investment phase – MDBs (the World Bank and the regional development banks) and UN organizations (UNDP, UNEP, WFP).

SOFF Peer Advisors

The WMO Country Support Initiative will advise countries and implementing entities on achieving and maintaining GBON compliance. It provides hands-on peer-to-peer support through national meteorological services.

SOFF downloads

FAQs

3 November 2021 – 3 November 2021: On Finance Day at COP26, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced the creation of the Systematic Observations Finance Facility (SOFF). This new finance mechanism will set the foundation to boost climate action globally and will contribute to achieving one of the main goals of COP26 – to urgently scale-up climate finance to support developing countries’ adaptation and mitigation efforts. Read more…
1 November 2021 – Just a week before the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, three of the United Nations’ leading agencies on climate and development released alarming reports. The World Meteorological Organization has highlighted how greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2020. It found that concentrations of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere rose at a faster rate in 2020 than over the previous decade. Read more…
27 September 2021 – The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) convened the third meeting of the forum of potential funders for the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF). Some 50 delegations representing potential bilateral, multilateral and philanthropic funders as well as observer organizations including the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) Group and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the members of the Alliance for Hydromet Development joined the meeting. Read more…
9 July 2021 – The international community has issued a rallying call for greater investments in weather forecasts, early warning systems, and climate services – known as hydromet – to boost climate change adaptation and resilience to extreme weather. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the first Hydromet Gap report “tells us how far we need to go to ensure all people have access to accurate, timely weather and climate information.” “But for accurate forecasts, we need reliable weather and climate data. Today, large gaps remain in basic weather data, particularly in Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries. These affect the quality of forecasts everywhere, particularly in the critical weeks and days when anticipatory actions are most needed,” said the UN Secretary-General. Read more…
8 July 2021 – First Hydromet Gap Report calls for scaled-up action Geneva, 8 July 2021 (WMO) – An estimated 23,000 lives per year could be saved potential annual benefits of at least US$ 162 billion could be realized by improving weather forecasts, early warning systems, and climate information – known as hydromet, according to a new report. The first Hydromet Gap Report, launched on 8 July, tells us how far we have to go to tap the benefits of effective weather and climate services. It presents the challenges of the complex global and local undertaking required and proposes priority actions to scale up support to developing countries to strengthen their capacity Read more…
8 July 2021 – I am pleased to welcome the first Hydromet Gap report. I thank the 13 member organizations of the Alliance for Hydromet Development for highlighting the urgent need to close the capacity gap on high-quality weather forecasts, early warning systems and climate information. This is essential for building resilience in the face of climate change. Frightening heatwaves and other climate events emphasize our growing crisis. Read more…
29 June 2021 – More than 100 participants representing 28 potential funders and 21 observer institutions attended the second funders’ forum of the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF) on the 28th of June to advance discussions on on the timeline and costs and benefits. he forum built on the discussions of the first funders’ forum, and addressed key issues that delegations raised during the first forum and in subsequent consultations. It focused on clarifying the critical role of observations in the meteorological value chain and the SOFF value proposition; the proposed institutional and operational arrangements; and the roadmap to COP26 and beyond. Read more…
21 April 2021 – The Least Developed Countries (LDC) group has welcomed the proposed creation of the Systematic Observation Financing Facility (SOFF) to improve weather forecasts and strengthen resilient development. The LDC Group is comprised of the 46 countries who are among the world’s most vulnerable and suffer disproportionately from climate impacts given their financial constraints and limited capacities Read more…
25 March 2021 – A major new proposed financing initiative to close the increasing gaps in the global observing system, which underpins all weather forecasts and early warnings, has received overwhelming support from the international community. The Systematic Observations Financing Facility, or SOFF, seeks to provide technical and financial assistance to countries to generate and exchange basic observational data. This is critical for improved weather forecasts and climate services needed to boost resilience to more extreme weather and to adapt to climate change impacts. Read more…
11 March 2021 – Behind every weather forecast, every early warning of life-threatening hazards, and every long-term climate change projection are observational data. A new report published by the World Bank, produced in collaboration with the World Meteorological Organization and the Met Office (UK), estimates improving the collection and international exchange of surface-based observational data will deliver additional socioeconomic benefits worth more than US $5 billion a year. Read more…
13 February 2021 – You may have noticed that weather forecasts on your cellphone are reasonably accurate for the next three to five days, but very iffy eight to 10 days out. This may not matter much to you, except when you are planning a camping or sailing trip, or an outdoor event, like a wedding. But it matters a lot to a farmer who has to decide on optimal timing for planting, harvesting, and irrigation, or an electric utility manager who needs to plan for the expected supply of solar or wind energy to the grid. Read more…

News

3 November 2021 – 3 November 2021: On Finance Day at COP26, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced the creation of the Systematic Observations Finance Facility (SOFF). This new finance mechanism will set the foundation to boost climate action globally and will contribute to achieving one of the main goals of COP26 – to urgently scale-up climate finance to support developing countries’ adaptation and mitigation efforts. Read more…
1 November 2021 – Just a week before the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, three of the United Nations’ leading agencies on climate and development released alarming reports. The World Meteorological Organization has highlighted how greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2020. It found that concentrations of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere rose at a faster rate in 2020 than over the previous decade. Read more…
27 September 2021 – The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) convened the third meeting of the forum of potential funders for the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF). Some 50 delegations representing potential bilateral, multilateral and philanthropic funders as well as observer organizations including the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) Group and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the members of the Alliance for Hydromet Development joined the meeting. Read more…
9 July 2021 – The international community has issued a rallying call for greater investments in weather forecasts, early warning systems, and climate services – known as hydromet – to boost climate change adaptation and resilience to extreme weather. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the first Hydromet Gap report “tells us how far we need to go to ensure all people have access to accurate, timely weather and climate information.” “But for accurate forecasts, we need reliable weather and climate data. Today, large gaps remain in basic weather data, particularly in Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries. These affect the quality of forecasts everywhere, particularly in the critical weeks and days when anticipatory actions are most needed,” said the UN Secretary-General. Read more…
8 July 2021 – First Hydromet Gap Report calls for scaled-up action Geneva, 8 July 2021 (WMO) – An estimated 23,000 lives per year could be saved potential annual benefits of at least US$ 162 billion could be realized by improving weather forecasts, early warning systems, and climate information – known as hydromet, according to a new report. The first Hydromet Gap Report, launched on 8 July, tells us how far we have to go to tap the benefits of effective weather and climate services. It presents the challenges of the complex global and local undertaking required and proposes priority actions to scale up support to developing countries to strengthen their capacity Read more…
8 July 2021 – I am pleased to welcome the first Hydromet Gap report. I thank the 13 member organizations of the Alliance for Hydromet Development for highlighting the urgent need to close the capacity gap on high-quality weather forecasts, early warning systems and climate information. This is essential for building resilience in the face of climate change. Frightening heatwaves and other climate events emphasize our growing crisis. Read more…
29 June 2021 – More than 100 participants representing 28 potential funders and 21 observer institutions attended the second funders’ forum of the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF) on the 28th of June to advance discussions on on the timeline and costs and benefits. he forum built on the discussions of the first funders’ forum, and addressed key issues that delegations raised during the first forum and in subsequent consultations. It focused on clarifying the critical role of observations in the meteorological value chain and the SOFF value proposition; the proposed institutional and operational arrangements; and the roadmap to COP26 and beyond. Read more…
21 April 2021 – The Least Developed Countries (LDC) group has welcomed the proposed creation of the Systematic Observation Financing Facility (SOFF) to improve weather forecasts and strengthen resilient development. The LDC Group is comprised of the 46 countries who are among the world’s most vulnerable and suffer disproportionately from climate impacts given their financial constraints and limited capacities Read more…
25 March 2021 – A major new proposed financing initiative to close the increasing gaps in the global observing system, which underpins all weather forecasts and early warnings, has received overwhelming support from the international community. The Systematic Observations Financing Facility, or SOFF, seeks to provide technical and financial assistance to countries to generate and exchange basic observational data. This is critical for improved weather forecasts and climate services needed to boost resilience to more extreme weather and to adapt to climate change impacts. Read more…
11 March 2021 – Behind every weather forecast, every early warning of life-threatening hazards, and every long-term climate change projection are observational data. A new report published by the World Bank, produced in collaboration with the World Meteorological Organization and the Met Office (UK), estimates improving the collection and international exchange of surface-based observational data will deliver additional socioeconomic benefits worth more than US $5 billion a year. Read more…
13 February 2021 – You may have noticed that weather forecasts on your cellphone are reasonably accurate for the next three to five days, but very iffy eight to 10 days out. This may not matter much to you, except when you are planning a camping or sailing trip, or an outdoor event, like a wedding. But it matters a lot to a farmer who has to decide on optimal timing for planting, harvesting, and irrigation, or an electric utility manager who needs to plan for the expected supply of solar or wind energy to the grid. Read more…

It’s critical that we invest in better global weather and climate observations

9 February 2021 – You may have noticed that weather forecasts on your cellphone are reasonably accurate for the next three to five days, but very iffy eight to 10 days out. This may not matter much to you, except when you are planning a camping or sailing trip, or an outdoor event, like a wedding. But it matters a lot to a farmer who has to decide on optimal timing for planting, harvesting, and irrigation, or an electric utility manager who needs to plan for the expected supply of solar or wind energy to the grid. 

Related publications

View SOFF Terms of Reference

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