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World Meteorological Day: The ocean, the atmosphere, and the weather

In the physical processes scope, the oceans play an essential role in the climatic system. For their extension (they cover more the two-thirds of the surface of the planet), for their volume (it has more than 95% of the water of the planet), and for its dynamic (circulation that distributes energy and mass), they are boosters of the atmospheric processes and the weather in different special and temporal scales.

The oceans are immense reservoirs of solar energy, distributing it as heat through the planet. In its exchange of mass and energy with the atmosphere, they regulate the occurrence, frequency, and intensity of different phenomena of the weather and climate.

In the scale of processes that day to day determine the variations of the weather, the oceans provide the energy for the development of processes such as tropical storms and hurricanes. Also, at the climate scale, warm/cold marine currents foster soft winters/summers; participate in organizing monsoon circulation; the anomalous situations in the special distribution of heat in the Pacific Ocean, known as the El Niño and La Niña phenomena that produce climatic irregularities and with their function in the biogeochemical cycles–such as carbon– they have an incidence on the greenhouse effect of the atmosphere.

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Nevertheless, the oceanic environment–as the atmospheric– is experiencing changes that may alter the balance of the climate system which maintains diverse ecological and socioeconomic processes. For instance, warming and acidification of the ocean are modifications of the physical-chemical features of the marine environment that have great repercussions on life, world socio economic development, and human welfare as a whole.

In 2016, UNESCO published its First Global Integrated Marine Assessment, which discovered that a large part of the ocean is seriously degraded, with structural, and functional changes as well as alterations to the benefits of the marine systems. Therefore, it is crucial to strengthen actions directed to control said changes and protect the oceans.

Motivated by this situation, the world community, through the United Nations proclaimed the “Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)” to pool efforts from several actors and boost actions to reverse the cycle of decline in the ocean; for a better understanding of the oceanic processes and their role in the planet ecosystem, and to progress toward sustainable development.

One of the agencies of the UN systems, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) participates with the rest of the system and other international organizations in the Decade of the Oceans, an initiative of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

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In the WMO agenda, every March 23rd is highlighted as the World Meteorological Day, which every year is devoted to a special matter, and for 2021, it is “The Ocean, our Weather, and Climate,” emphasizing the important role of the ocean in the climate system and indicating the need to observe and analyze to improve the knowledge over its processes and have information over its behavior for the benefit of society.

Several countries participate in monitoring the ocean conditions and in research over the ocean and the atmosphere-interaction involved in the organization of the weather and climate.

Nevertheless, there are still ample surface areas of oceans, such as in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean where we still need to improve the observations. Also, we need to acknowledge that there still are open questions about how the oceans operate and their interaction with the atmosphere, which is a challenge for research.

The Decade of the Oceans will be an opportunity to progress to improve the situation.

In Colombia, the Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies Institute (IDEAM, for its Spanish acronym), the Marine and Coastal Research Institute (INVEMAR, for its Spanish acronym), the research center of the General Maritime Directorate (DIMAR, for its Spanish acronym) and the Regional Autonomous Corporations (CAR, for its Spanish acronym) of the Pacific coast, the Caribbean and the Archipelago of San Andres and Providencia are in charge of monitoring the oceans.

On the other hand, research groups from several universities and research centers are devoted to research ocean and atmospheric processes and have been building knowledge over the relationship between the ocean and the national climate, as well as the national climate and the tropical Atlantic and Pacific processes.

In these research projects, the progress in understanding the relationship between the climate of different regions of Colombia and the ocean processes of the El Niño and La Niña are highlighted.

Let’s hope the World Meteorological Day-2021, “The Ocean, our Weather, and Climate,” will be an opportunity to recognize the work of meteorologists and all the community related to monitoring and researching the atmosphere, the climate, and the ocean.

Congratulations to them and with the hope that this 2021-2030 be successful for a better understanding of the climatic system. Fair winds and following seas!

Consejo Editorial