Argentina's Celeste Saulo will be the first woman to head the World Meteorological Organization and will be tasked with strengthening its action in the fight against climate change.
Celeste Saulo, 59, elected handily on Thursday 1 June in Geneva, will take office as WMO Director-General on 1 January 2024 replacing Finland's Petteri Taalas, the WMO said in a statement.
"Fast and efficient services"
At a time when inequality and climate change are the greatest global threats, WMO must contribute to strengthening meteorological and hydrological services to protect people and their economies, by providing timely and effective services and early warning systems," said Professor Celeste Saulo, after her election. Argentina, which has headed the national meteorological agency since 2014, was elected on the first ballot by secret ballot by WMO member countries meeting at a Congress in Geneva. She obtained 108 votes against 37 for the one who was seen as her main rival, the Chinese Zhang Wenjian, current number three of the organization, according to a diplomatic source in Geneva. She was warmly applauded when the result was announced, the same source said.
The current number two of the WMO, Russian-Swiss Deputy Secretary General Elena Manaenkova was also in the running, as well as Albert Martis, head of the meteorological service of Curaçao. WMO's role has grown in recent years and it has focused on new monitoring and warning systems to save lives in the face of climate change, but also to better understand and anticipate the profound changes they cause. The current director-general, Finland's Petteri Taalas, has made it a priority, but after two terms he cannot stand for re-election.
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Celeste Saulo was already the first woman to hold the position of First Vice-President of WMO since 2019. In its profession of faith, Argentina says it is "passionate about meteorology and solving global challenges associated with climate change, natural hazards and the growing vulnerability of peoples." Celeste Saulo obtained his Master's degree in Meteorology Sciences in 1987 from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). In 1996, she obtained her PhD in Atmospheric Sciences at UBA. His research has been important, particularly in improving the understanding of the South American monsoon system and the patterns associated with precipitation and circulation during the warm season, his CV points out.
The election of Celeste Saulo is the culmination of the World Meteorological Congress, the general assembly of WMO's 193 member states and territories, which takes place every four years only. "The priority of this Congress is to intensify WMO's response to climate change, to do more to strengthen support to countries on climate adaptation," spokeswoman Clare Nullis told reporters on Tuesday. "We can't stop the weather from becoming more extreme, but we can save lives." WMO also systematically monitors sea-level rise, temperature changes, melting glaciers and other indicators of climate degradation. In particular, Petteri Taalas succeeded in convincing people of the need to establish a truly global early warning network for extreme weather events to save lives, especially in developing countries.
The Congress, which opened on May 22 and ends Friday, decided to make the cryosphere a top priority, given the increasing impacts of melting sea ice, glaciers and permafrost. It has also launched a new project to monitor greenhouse gases, responsible for warming but still poorly quantified at the global level due to the lack of a sufficiently sustainable and dense network. Celeste Saulo will be responsible for implementing these various initiatives, once in place as of January 1, 2024.