Weather wise

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TODAY IS World Meteorological Day, and since the United Nations has declared 1998 "The Year of the Oceans", the World Meteorological Organisation has chosen "Weather, oceans and human activity" as the theme for the day.

In his World Meteorological Day message, Professor Godwin Obasi, the Secretary-General of WMO, stresses the importance of increasing our understanding of the link between oceans and weather. "The interaction of land, sea and atmosphere comes into sharpest focus along coasts," he writes, and with two-thirds of the worlds population living in coastal regions, this assumes even greater importance. "There is, in addition, a major challenge and opportunity facing WMO ... as we seek to harness the linkages between oceans and climate to provide accurate forecasts of droughts and other severe climatic conditions on seasonal to annual time-scales. We must also strive to refine our understanding of the role of the oceans in time to contribute substantially to preventing or mitigating the most adverse impacts of global warming."

But what should we do to mark World Meteorological Day? I have three suggestions: 1) take your umbrella for a walk; 2) stare out of the window and wonder at the laws of physics that produce such beautiful colours in the sky; 3) just sit and think about El Nino and all the other things we don't understand about the massive and so far totally unpredictable effects the oceans have on the world's weather.