Professor Petteri Taalas was elected as WMO Secretary General in May 2015 for a four-year term 2016-19. Taalas has PhD from Helsinki University in 1993. He has studied meteorology, international development, physics and physical chemistry. Taalas has served as a professor, head of research and scientist 1986-2002 dealing with climate change, air pollution and satellite based observing technologies.
He was appointed as Director-General of the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI), a government atmospheric and marine research and service agency in 2002, and served until 2015. He has carried out a major reform of FMI becoming the best government agency with considerable increase of customer and staff satisfaction as well as considerable enhancement of competitive financing. The reforms carried out led to tripling of scientific publication output, and FMI is today one of the leading atmospheric research and development centres in Europe with active university and private sector partnerships.
Dr Taalas has also been actively sharing the high level weather service and disaster risk reduction infrastructure as well as air quality related expertise with sister agencies worldwide. FMI has carried out capacity development projects in more than 100 countries in Africa, Asia, Pacific, and Caribbean, Andean, Central American and East European countries. Several climate change and atmospheric research projects have been carried out with leading European, North American, and Argentinian, Chinese and Indian organizations.
Taalas has served as a Director of Development and Regional Activities Department of WMO 2005-2007, when the department was reorganized to provide better services for Members. He established an office for Least Developed Countries, development financing office, Bahrain office for League of Arab State countries and initiated WMO Country Profile Database to monitor the status of Members.
As Secretary-General of WMO Taalas has facilitated a historical reform process, where all of the constituent bodies and their working practices are being modernized to enhance the agility, efficiency and Member service capacity of WMO. The secretariat working practices and culture are also under transformation. New partnerships with development financing, agriculture, health and transport sector agencies have been built. Coordinated engagement of private sector is under way.
Dr Taalas has had several positions and board memberships in both national and international organizations, like chairmanships of EUMETSAT and EUMETNET Councils, delegate of IPCC, vice-chair of European Commission Science Panel and member of ECMWF Council. In Finland Taalas has been board of directors member of Fortum energy company and chairman of the board of Univ. of Eastern Finland besides several government bodies dealing with science, Arctic, climate change and space technologies. He is a member of science academy and technical science academy of Finland.
Mr Taalas is married with five children. He speaks English, Swedish, German and Finnish and has knowledge of French and Russian. He is honorary doctor of Teri University in India, academician of Eurasian science academy, honorary member of Chinese and Indian meteorological societies and has received commander crosses of German and Finnish presidents. He is a reserve navy captain.