History of IMO and WMO

Going back to 1873, WMO finds its roots in the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), which then was a non-governmental organization that had transformed into a specialized agency of the United Nations in 1951, to become the World Meteorological Organization, responding more effectively to the international nature of meteorology.

History of IMO

The International Meteorological Organization (IMO) finds its origins in the 1873 Vienna International Meteorological Congress, which tasked a Permanent Meteorological Committee to draft the rules and statutes of an international meteorological organization to facilitate the exchange of weather information across national borders. Professor Buys Ballot was elected as President of Committee. The task was completed in Utrecht in 1878 and the IMO came into being at the International Meteorological Congress held in Rome the following year. It remained in operation until 1950, when IMO formally became the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The International Meteorological Committee

Rome Congress established the International Meteorological Committee to replace the Permanent Meteorological Committee, which aimed at promoting international co-operation in meteorology, encouraging meteorological research and establishing uniformity in operational practices, with particular respect to weather observations and reporting and the exchange and publication of data.

History of WMO

The establishment of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in March 1950, following the entry into force of its Convention, and the designation of WMO in 1951 as a specialized agency of the United Nations, heralded a new era for international cooperation in the field of meteorology, hydrology, and related geophysical sciences.

Towards the mid-1930s, it was becoming increasingly evident that IMO’s designation as a non-governmental organization was incompatible with the importance that meteorology carried at that time, in the context of vast economic and technological developments being made. By 1939, a draft of a new World Meteorological Convention (the Berlin Draft) had been prepared but further action on its approval was inevitably delayed by World War II. Some further progress took place, as the Secretariat was transferred to a neutral country, Switzerland, in 1939, shortly after the Berlin meeting. 

The 1947 Conference of Directors meeting in Washington, DC, USA considered wide range of topics, such as codes, units, diagrams, symbols, instruments, methods of observation, station networks, telecommunications, the safety of air navigation, climatological statistics, publications, documents, education, professional training, meteorological research, legal issues and administrative matters. Moreover, relationships between IMO and the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Telecommunication Union and the International Ice Patrol were also discussed. But the issue of greatest importance to IMO after the war was its status and structure.

Endeavors to resolve the matter began as early as February 1946, when the Conference of Directors asked the International Meteorological Committee to prepare a new IMO constitution, making the Organization an inter-governmental body.