Minister of Transport Merja Kyllönen Finnish Meteorological Institute 175 years
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- Johan Jacob Nervander could not have imagined what enormous societal impact the institute he founded in 1838 would have one day. Yet his purpose was right from the very beginning, since the magnetic observation activities were first conducted as part of the University of Helsinki, to facilitate weather forecasting.
- During its 175-year-long history to date, the Finnish Meteorological Institute has evolved into a significant actor in our society, serving our citizens' safety and well-being. People place great trust in the Institute, and society makes extensive use of its services, for example in the planning of daily operations, in preparedness issues, and in preparing for global climate changes.
- In the agrarian society of the past, services provided by the Institute were targeted at farmers, in the form of climate statistics and other relevant data. Urbanisation and motorisation of society, however, meant changes in its operations. Having previously functioned under the Ministry of Agriculture, the FMI was in 1968 transferred to the Ministry of Transport. This remains the best possible administrative location for the Institute, as most its services - as much as 80 per cent - are aimed at guaranteeing the safety of different modes of transport.
- So, the FMI is firstand foremost a safety authority - but also one of the best research institutes in Finland. Last autumn, a proposal was brought forward that the Institute's operations should be merged with environmental research. This does not receive the support of the Ministry of Transport. In fact, we strongly oppose this proposal. The operations of the Institute should not be put at risk by making administrative changes whose expected benefits remain vague at best. The Institute's round-the-clock services are extensively utilised by the ministries and safety authorities. In addition, weather services provided to the Defence Forces have also increased and developed quickly over the past few years, and in the transformation of the armed forces, new technologies enable the creation of new types of tailor-made services.
- The FMI engages in fruitful research cooperation with sectoral research institutions, universities and businesses. In terms of their diversity and effectiveness, these activities indeed display a model example of well-functioning collaboration and partnership. As far as operational activities are concerned, the FMI also has a close partnership with the Finnish Environment Institute in the field of hydrological, remote sensing and air quality services, and in numerous Research & Development projects.
- I would say that the Institute's decade-long collaboration with the University of Helsinki and Vaisala Corporation provides the best example of the benefits that its partnerships yield for Finnish innovation. This collaboration has contributed to the creation of Finnish expertise, which is significant on a global scale. It as also resulted in the development of new products, designed to meet the actual needs of a customer producing weather services. Yet, people here often complain that R&D and innovation activities do not run smoothly in Finland. At the Kumpula campus, innovation really happens! Basic research and specialist training at the University create expertise for the use of applied R&D and weather services at the FMI. Through cooperation with businesses, this expertise transforms into industrial export products. The fact that the Institute employs more than one hundred people with a doctoral level degree shows that its R&D work really is founded on great expertise, and according to international comparisons, the FMI is one of the world's best weather institutes, both in service provision and in research.
- The FMI monitors the development of its operating environment both nationally and internationally, also paying attention to the changing needs. With its expertise and the right partners, it has assumed a substantial role in a variety of global projects. It has also been a leader in the Global Atmosphere Watch Programme which was launched by the World Meteorological Organisation as early as the beginning of the 1990s. As part of this programme the FMI has created a greenhouse gas time series, covering a time period of more than 15 years, which shows that the chemical composition of our atmosphere is inevitably changing. Furthermore, as part of the Integrated Carbon Observing System Programme, the FMI together with the University of Helsinki are now getting the European headquarters of ICOS established in Finland, which also means a major international research role for the Institute.
- The FMI makes efficient use of modern satellite observations in its weather forecasting activities and in numerous research projects. Finland is a world leader in the utilisation of satellite data in global ice and snow cover research. Arctic research is strongly developing in fields such as greenhouse gases and the marine environment. The FMI has developed new safety services for the sea areas, such as the Baltic Sea and the northern sea routes which are now becoming accessible as a result of climate change. At the Arctic Research Centre in Sodankylä, steps have also been taken to improve the reception of satellite data. This work has led to the establishment of new cooperation relations serving the reception of precise satellite images. The FMI can utilise this data in the development of its remote sensing activities and provide the opportunity to use it to other operators as well.
- In the field of weather services, the Ministry hopes that increasingly versatile services could be developed and provided to our citizens, businesses and the authorities. Finland has already taken an important step forward to make this a reality: we have decided to open up access to the data produced by the FMI so that it can be freely distributed for the benefit of service development. The Finnish Government has also made the decision that from 2013 onwards, it will compensate for the loss of income incurred to the FMI from making its data available and from developing the associated distribution systems. Weather data which is free and available to all is believed to give rise to a number of new products and services and to have a positive impact on the functioning and safety of our society in ways which we cannot yet even be imagined.
- In real-time weather services, weather radars provide us with the essential observation data. This data is efficiently utilised in winter road maintenance, for example. As a result of close cooperation with the Finnish Transport Agency and various maintenance companies, Finland now boasts one of the best real-time winter road maintenance systems in the world. By ensuring that the timing of measures affecting the roads, road salting and snow ploughing is right, we can considerably improve the safety and flow of traffic. To develop this work, the Ministry supports the FMI's objectives to extend and upgrade the weather radar network.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Finnish Meteorological Institute is professional, proactive, well-organised and excellent at co-operation and collaboration.
For this outstanding work, I would like to express my warmest thanks to the Institute's management and its entire staff!