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Compendium on methods and tools to evaluate impacts of, and vulnerability and adaptation to, climate change

Guidelines on Climate Watches

These guidelines describe how to establish a climate watch system and the information required in a climate watch. Governments typically react to extreme climate events through “crisis management” rather than through continuous risk reduction. Decision makers have cited the lack of information about approaching climate hazards with sufficient notice to take action. Climate watches aim to deliver this necessary, accurate information to end-users through the National Meteorological Services (NMSs) in a timely and useful manner.

Appropriate Use

This tool targets “the special situation and needs of smaller NMSs, which have limited resources” in establishing the system and issuing climate watches. The process is based on continuous collaboration with climate information users, and it should serve as a mechanism to initiate preparedness activities to limit impacts from climate anomalies (e.g. excessive rainfall over several months).

The guidelines discuss the rationale for a climate watch system, current activities and capacity in NMSs, characteristics and operation of a climate watch system, format and criteria for issuing a climate watch, and various annexes, including examples of climate watches.
Climate watch format:

  • A standard heading, issuing authority, and time and date of issue;
  • Areas for which the advice is current (the appropriate regions);
  • Period during which the climate watch is valid;
  • Where appropriate, an indication of the reason for the climate watch, which may include graphical information;
  • Relevant skill of long range forecasts;
  • Possible follow-on effects of the climate anomaly;
  • Date at which the next update will be issued.
Scope National level; meteorological services.
Key Output

Information about significant climate anomalies for the forthcoming season(s) that may have substantial impacts on a sub-national scale

  1. Establishment of national climate watch system;
  2. Capacity built for the climate watch system;
  3. Operation of national climate watch;
  4. Climate watch system evaluated.
Key Input
  • A network of observation stations; an understanding of the current and recent past climate of the region in question; linkage with regional/global monitoring systems; dissemination channels to reach users; partnerships with key stakeholders;
  • Understanding of users’ needs; criteria for issuing a Climate Watch defined (e.g. average rainfalls below a certain level for the season); technical training; strengthening of communication links;
  • Monitoring and analysis of climate data; communication with other organizations that maintain their observation systems; communication with intermediaries to translate information for user groups;
  • Periodic reviews of the system and process; dialogue with users on their needs to identify gaps in dissemination or content.
Ease of Use Usable by national meteorological services
Training Required Requires expertise in meteorology/climatology and understanding of climate information users’ needs.
Training Available See Contacts
Computer Requirements Software for forecasting and word processing
Documentation MO. 2005. Guidelines on Climate Watches. Geneva: World Meteorological Organization.

None identified

Contacts for Framework, Documentation, Technical Assistance

Omar Baddour

Chief, World Climate Data and Monitoring Programme, WMO, 7bis Ave. de la Paix, C.P. 2300, CH-1211, Geneva 2, Switzerland; Tel: 41.22.730.8268 or 41.22.730.8214; Fax: 41.22.730.8042; e-mail:

Cost Free

Technical documents published under the WMO World Climate Data and Monitoring Programme (WCDMP).