WMO steps up coordination to protect vital radio frequency bands  

17 April 2024

WMO is stepping up coordinated efforts to ensure the protection of radio frequency bands, which are vital for weather forecasts and life-saving early warnings. 

The WMO Commission for Observation, Infrastructure and Information systems (INFCOM) decided to establish a network of national focal points in order to enhance the capacity and knowledge of the Radio Frequency Regulatory framework within the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) and related environmental service centres.  

Weather forecasts, early warnings, climate monitoring, and other environmental services all depend on observations and communication in specific radio frequency bands. Satellites, radiosondes, weather radars, wind profiler radars, oceanographic radars, lightning location systems, microwave radiometers, aircraft, hydrological observing systems, drifting buoys and other ocean-based platforms, as well as several types of ground-based space weather sensors, all operate based on radio or microwave transmissions -  and there is increased competition from emerging technologies. 

The challenges were highlighted at a side-event at INFCOM, which explained how the new network of national focal points will enhance the meteorological community’s ability to safeguard the critical access to radio spectrum.  

Arlene Laing, Coordinating Director of the Caribbean Meteorological Organization, said: “The Caribbean Small Island Developing States are prone to devastating hurricanes, floods, and other severe weather.  The safety of lives and property in the Caribbean depends on satellite observations over the ocean, which is why it is vital to protect the radio frequencies used for earth observations and forecasts."  

“Microwave observations contribute up to 50% of the impact of observations on weather forecast skill,” said Stephen English, Deputy Director of Research of the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts.  

Updates to the Radio Regulations occur every four years at the World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC), led by the International Telecommunication (ITU).  WMO, through its Expert Team on Radio Frequency Coordination, actively participates and ensures that WMO Members are kept informed about the impacts on the WMO Integrated Global Observing System.  

Protecting essential radio-frequency bands through the Radio Regulations is a complex and challenging process, according to Kirsty McBeath and Alec Casey, co-Vice-Chairs of the WMO Expert Team on Radio Frequency Coordination. They explained the detailed process to side event participants. Engagement of the national focal points for frequency matters will help obtaining and safeguarding protection of vital frequency bands under the Radio Regulations, they said.  

WMO and ITU enjoy a longstanding collaboration on meteorology data and digital technologies. They are partners in the “Early Warnings For All” initiative spearheaded by UN Secretary-General António Guterres to ensure everyone on Earth is protected from climate hazards and disasters through life-saving alerts by the end of 2027.  

The outcome of the most recent World Radio Communication Conference, WRC-23, in Dubai in November-December 2023 was generally positive. However, there is no room for complacency. The new network of national focal points will sensitize the WMO community to emerging issues ahead of the next conference. 

Read about WMO’s position in ITU News special edition on Science services : Earth observation at the World Radiocommunication Conference 

Watch ITU INTERVIEWS @ WRC-23: Natalia Donoho, Head, Space Systems and Utilization Division, WMO - YouTube