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UN international day highlights latest currents in the ‘air we breathe’

UN international day highlights latest currents in the ‘air we breathe’

With an estimated two million people dying prematurely due to air pollution each year, the United Nations weather-monitoring agency is focusing on the movement of pollutants around the globe as it marks World Meteorological Day today.

Under the theme of “Weather, climate and the air we breathe,” the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is using the day to draw attention to the work of its 188 members’ National Meteorological and Hydrological Services in air quality data, research and forecasts.

WMO has been actively involved in international efforts to assess our evolving atmosphere in terms of air pollutants such as ground-level ozone, smog, particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide and dioxide,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said, noting that most of those result from the combustion of fossil fuels.

Member States’ national meteorological services have been working together to collect and analyze the data “that are essential for forecasting atmospheric pollution and for protecting communities against its health and economic impacts,” he added.

The more scientists understand the weather-climate system, the better they are able to forecast the distribution of potentially harmful atmospheric particles and gases, WMO explained.

In a major initiative, networks of stations in the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) collect data on greenhouse gases – such as carbon dioxide and methane – and reactive gases, including ozone, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide.

These observations work in concert with the vast weather, climate and water observational networks coordinated through the WMO Integrated Observing System, and the national services use the data collected to produce air quality indexes and other pollution forecasts.

More air quality services will soon be available, as work continues to better understand the effects of air pollution in various settings, particularly its effect on climate change, the agency added.

The World Climate Conference-3, which will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, from 31 August to 4 September 2009, will further explore the links between climate and health, engaging scientists, decision-makers and policy-makers from the public and private sectors, WMO said.

World Meteorological Day commemorates the1950 entry into force of the Convention that created the WMO, which became a specialized agency of the UN one year later.