The 15th session of the WMO’s Commission for Hydrology (CHy-15)

Contributed by Sinéad Duffy & Oliver Nicholson

The Commission for Hydrology (CHy) of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) recently held its fifteenth session in Rome from 7th to 13th December 2016. Oliver Nicholson and I were the Irish representatives and attended the session on Dec 8th & 9th. This was the first Irish attendance at a CHy session since 1980.

Oliver works in the Office of Public Works (OPW), the lead Irish state body for coordination and implementation of Government policy and the EU Directive for flood risk management. I work in Met Éireann, the national meteorological service of Ireland. Our two organisations are currently collaborating on the establishment of a National Flood Forecasting and Warning Service for Ireland.

Brief history of CHy

CHy held its first session in Washington DC in 1961 and since then has met every four years. Sessions have mostly been hosted in Geneva but they have also travelled to Abuja, Buenos Aires, Koblenz, Madrid, Ottawa and Warsaw.

The Commission for Hydrology has not always been known as such. The final report of the first CHy session refers to it as the ‘Commission for Hydrological Meteorology’. The reports of the following two sessions in 1964 and 1968 note the title as the ‘Commission for Hydrometeorology’. It was not until the fourth session in Geneva in 1972 that the name ‘Commission for Hydrology’ was settled upon [1].

The Women’s Leadership in Hydrology Workshop

Prior to CHy-15 session kick-off, there was a two-day Women’s Leadership in Hydrology workshop, which was attended by 30 female hydrologists from 30 countries on 5 continents. Its aim was to empower women in WMO governance structures, as currently only 20% on average of those holding governance roles in the organisation are female.

WMO’s Deputy Secretary-General, Elena Manaenkova’s concluding remarks encouraged participants to be leaders themselves and to promote the study of meteorology and hydrology to young females. She urged all attending to be role models and mentors to young female professionals.

Participants of the Women’s Leadership in Hydrology workshop (photo: WMO)

CHy15 proceedings

On day one of CHy-15 committees were established, the Commission President, Advisory Working Group Members and the Secretary-General presented reports, and sessions were held on regional activities related to the Hydrology and Water Resources Programme and decisions of Congress and the Executive Council relevant to hydrology and water resources management.

Elections were held on the morning of day two, the 8th December. Dr Harry F. Lins (USA) was re-elected as President of the Commission without opposition, and Dr Silvano Pecora (Italy) was elected as Vice-President, replacing Dr Zhiyu Liu (China).

Discussions took place on the Quality Management Framework – Hydrology (QMF-H) and what is known as Project X, a project for the assessment of the performance of flow measurement instruments and techniques. The Commission has developed a dedicated QMF-H website, and a checklist with the basic steps required to set up a credible Quality Management System to ISO level with case studies from the Canadian, Czech and New Zealand Hydrological Service.

A World Bank representative presented on hydrological services in developing countries. Hydrological information and services are vital for sustainable management of water resources and flood/drought disaster mitigation, and NHSs are important as the main source of this information but the NHSs’ roles are not widely recognised in their own countries.

Resources are inadequate and sometimes decreasing for provision of these services. Case studies of Cameroon, Madagascar, Senegal, St. Lucia, Tanzania and Uruguay are now underway to review the status of hydrological information and services systems in the developing world.

The development of WHOS, the WMO Hydrological Observing System, which is the CHy’s contribution to the WMO Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS) was presented. It is planned that initial implementation of a fully compliant framework for WMO Executive Council approval will happen in June 2018.

Day three kicked off with presentations on the Flood Forecasting Initiative (FFI). New functionality of the Flash Flood Guidance System includes elements such as urban flash flood forecasting, multiple mesoscale model ingestion, satellite inundation mapping and surface soil moisture observations to correct the system’s soil moisture.

Actions were proposed for the FFI Advisory Group:

  • development of a list of best practices for End-to-End Early Warning System for flood forecasting;
  • development of a FFI Implementation Strategy based on projects, training programmes, guidance materials, etc. to enhance national capabilities, and to ensure that all major demonstration projects such as the Coastal Inundation Forecasting Demonstration Project and the Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project include best practices for flood forecasting.

The Manual on Flood Risk Mapping was in the review phase at the time of the CHy-15 session.

The Open Panel of Commission for Hydrology Experts (OPACHE) is the reservoir of scientific and technical expertise that CHy uses to fulfil its mission activities. These activities include:

  • participating in specialized hydrologic, hydrometric, and water resources studies;
  • serving on expert advisory teams;
  • contributing to manuals, guidance material, and technical reports; and
  • participating in workshops and expert meetings.

Recognized specialists from National Hydrological Services, research institutes, water resources management agencies, and academia are eligible to become OPACHE members and any experts wishing to participate in WMO activities were asked to apply.

Italy proposed the setting up of a Global Data-Processing and Forecast System (GDPFS). This would use a Global High Resolution Model (1km grid size). The models would be developed locally, but would be available for those from other countries to see.

The UK presented a proposal to develop a pilot WMO Global Hydrological Status and Outlook System to integrate current capabilities and tools in ground-based data; satellite data such as precipitation, soil moisture, etc.; numerical weather prediction models; and hydrological models.

An open-source Dynamic Water Resources Assessment Tool was outlined in a presentation by a member of the Republic of Korea delegation. The Japanese delegation noted that they have developed a flood forecasting system called IFAS (Integrated Flood Analysis System) and AutoIFAS, which will allow local engineers to use global satellite data, together with locally measured ground observations, to simulate local hydrological processes [2]. These models are used in Pakistan and Thailand, as well as other Asian countries.

Drought management, Hydrological and climate services and Capacity Building in Hydrology and Water Resource Management also were covered on day three. Documentation and presentations for these and other areas covered in the rest of the CHy-15 session are available on the dedicated CHy-15 website.

Overall, there were representative of 52 WMO member states at CHy-15, along with lecturers, invited experts and observers from 11 international organisations and other bodies such as ECMWF, ESA, HMEI and the World Bank.

The CHy-15 session was livestreamed on the ISPRA YouTube channel and videos from the session are available online.

Group photo of the 15th session of the Commission for Hydrology (CHy) of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) held in Rome from 7th to 13th December 2016 (photo: A. Castellucci, Ispra – CHy/WMO)

Additional links:

[1] Askew A, ‘Hydrology and Water Resources within WMO—the Birth of a Programme’, WMO Bulletin Vol 57 (3) – 2008.

[2] Integrated Flood Analysis System of ICHARM


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