World Radiocommunication Conference Addresses Weather Forecasting and Climate Monitoring

17 February 2012: The World Radiocommunication Conference 2012 (WRC 12) concluded with the signing of the Final Acts revising the Radio Regulations, including updating the Resolution on radiocommunications use for Earth observation applications and reaffirming their considerable societal and economic value.

The World Radiocommunication Conferences of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) are held every three or four years, and are mandated to review and revise the Radio Regulations, which is the international treaty governing the use of radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbit resources. The 2012 edition of the Conference, which was held from 23 January to 17 February 2012, in Geneva, Switzerland, addressed, among other agenda items, environmental topics such as the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to combat climate change, predict natural disasters and facilitate relief efforts.

WRC 12 updated spectrum use aimed at the future of Earth observation applications to monitor water vapour and oxygen spectral lines, which are needed for ice cloud and precipitation measurements and for storm monitoring and climate studies. WRC 12 also considered protection levels for interference caused by oceanographic radars, which measure coastal sea surface conditions in support of environmental, oceanographic, meteorological, climatological, maritime and disaster mitigation operations and for the surveillance of coastal pollution, fisheries management, search and rescue, beach erosion, and maritime navigation.

On emergency telecommunications, WRC 12 addressed the application of new technologies, such as intelligent transport systems, to support or supplement advanced public protection and disaster relief applications, and instructed the ITU's Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) to continue studying aspects of radiocommunications and ICT that are relevant to early warning, disaster mitigation and relief operations. In addition, WRC 12 also considered the importance of Earth observation radiocommunication applications in collecting and exchanging Earth observation data to maintain and improve the accuracy of weather forecasts, which play a key role in monitoring and combating climate change as well as in predicting disaster.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) welcomed the outcome of WRC 12, noting it would safeguard the use of radio frequency spectrum needed to for Earth observations and for reducing the risk of weather, climate and water-related disasters. [ITU Press Release] [WMO Press Release] [UN Press Release]