IMO-WMO 150th Anniversary

IMO-WMO 150th Anniversary

In 2023, WMO celebrates the 150th anniversary of its predecessor, the International Meteorological Organization which was established in 1873. It highlights past achievements, present progress and future potential - from the late 19th century telegraphs and shipping forecasts to supercomputers and space technology. The anniversary also serves as a reminder of our changing climate.

We live on an interconnected planet. We share one Earth, with one atmosphere and one ocean.

Our weather and climate and the water cycle know no national or political boundaries. International cooperation is essential. This philosophy has driven the work of the world’s meteorological community since 1873 and will guide us as we translate science into services for society for present and future generations. 

Throughout this time, National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) have worked around the clock to collect and standardize data which underpin the weather forecasts we now take for granted. The history of WMO data exchange is a remarkable story of scientific vision, technological development and, most of all, of a unique system of cooperation to serve society. 

The anniversary also serves as a reminder of our changing climate. The International Meteorological Organization – the predecessor of the World Meteorological Organization – was established in 1873 in an era when pollution from industrial and human activities was at its beginning. 

As a result of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, the average global temperature is now more than 1° Celsius higher today compared to 150 years ago. Our weather is more extreme, our ocean is warmer and more acidic, sea levels have risen and glaciers and ice are melting. The rate of change is accelerating. We need urgent action now to slash emissions and to ensure that future generations can both survive and thrive on our planet. 

The good news is that rapid scientific and technological advances have greatly improved the accuracy of weather forecasts and life-saving early warnings. Big data is being exchanged more freely among a wider community than ever before, and there are new tools including machine learning and Artificial Intelligence.  

There has been significant progress to monitor, simulate and project the global climate to support decision-making. 

Our weather, climate and water cycle will be different in future than in the past. Weather, climate and hydrological services will help us tackle the associated challenges and seize the opportunities. 

19th century

The history of the WMO community is fascinating. Weather forecasting originated with the standardization of maritime data and meteorological observations at sea. US Navy lieutenant Matthew Fontaine Maury was one of the driving forces of this, as was Admiral FitzRoy, who in 1860 started issuing storm warnings for sailors off the coasts of the United Kingdom and, one year later, general weather forecasts.  

20th century

After the end of World War II, the rebuilding of economies and the boom in maritime and air transport, ushered in an expansion of observational and telecommunications capabilities on land, at sea and in the air. But there were still large gaps.

21st century

Remarkable new observation and modelling technologies continue to develop, helping advance understanding of the Earth’s complex global weather and climate system. As a result, today’s five-day forecasts are as reliable as the two-day forecast of 25 years ago. These advances translate into literally billions of dollars in economic gains. 

The future

The demand for weather, climate and water forecast information in support of decision-making is likely to rapidly increase in the coming years.

Upcoming IMO-WMO 150th Anniversary Events

Musée d'histoire des sciences
5 June - 31 August 2023

Ciné Transat
18 August 2023

Jet d'Eau
5 September 2023

Quai Wilson
18 August - 30 September 2023