With a plunge of around 80% in climate measurements taken from aircraft, due to air travel all but collapsing due to coronavirus, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Thursday expressed concern about the pandemic’s rising impact on the quantity and quality of weather observations.

“Meteorological measurements taken from aircraft have plummeted by an average 75-80% compared to normal, but with very large regional variations; in the southern hemisphere, the loss is closer to 90%,” said the WMO, noting they also affect atmospheric and climate monitoring.

“Surface-based weather observations are in decline, especially in Africa and parts of Central and South America where many stations are manual rather than automatic.”

The WMO said its Global Observing System serves as a mainstay for all weather and climate services and products provided by the 193 WMO Member states and territories, to their citizens.

It provides observations on the state of the atmosphere and ocean surface from land-, sea- and space-based instruments.

“National Meteorological and Hydrological Services continue to perform their essential 24/7 functions but are facing increasingly severe challenges as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, especially in developing countries,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

WMO’s data is used to prepare weather analyses, forecasts, advisories, and warnings.

Taalas said meteorological services help protect lives and property but expressed concern about the rising constraints on capacity and resources.

Large parts of the observing system, for example, its satellite components and many ground-based observing networks, are either partly or fully automated.

They are, therefore, expected to continue functioning without significant degradation for several weeks, and in some cases, even longer. But if the pandemic is prolonged, then missing repair, maintenance, and supply work, and missing redeployments will become of higher concern.

Commercial airliners contribute to the WMO Aircraft Meteorological Data Relay program (AMDAR).

The program uses onboard sensors, computers, and communications systems.

These automatically collect, process, format, and transmit meteorological observations to ground stations via satellite or radio links.

The AMDAR observing system produces more than 800 000 high-quality observations a day of air temperature and wind speed and direction, along with required positional and time-based information, said the WMO.

It added that humidity and turbulence measurements had been increasingly recorded.

Currently, 43 airlines and several thousand aircraft contribute to the AMDAR program, which is expected to expand significantly in the coming years due to collaboration on the program with the International Air Transport Association IATA.

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