In 2021, we upgraded our forecasting system not only once but twice. The skill of the Extreme Forecast Index for 2-metre temperature showed significant improvement, while medium-range ensemble forecast skill reached a new record high.
The year 2021 had its fair share of challenges and opportunities, and this report highlights some of the year’s achievements that stand out as important or inspiring. But 2021 will in particular be remembered as the year when ECMWF became a multi-site organisation. The Centre was created in 1975 with its offices and data centre located together in Reading, United Kingdom. Our new setup, with headquarters in the UK, data centre in Italy, and additional offices in Germany certainly marks a turning point in the life and functioning of ECMWF. New processes and ways of working were implemented as we embarked on this adventure.
The year also saw the launch of our Strategy to 2030, developed with our Member and Co-operating States and with a strong emphasis on providing ever more skilful forecasts to their national meteorological and hydrological services.
As a perfect illustration, 2021 saw not one but two upgrades of ECMWF’s Integrated Forecasting System (IFS). The first, IFS Cycle 47r2 implemented on 11 May, introduced single precision for high-resolution and ensemble forecasts and increased the vertical resolution in the ensemble. The second, IFS Cycle 47r3 implemented on 12 October, improved the representation of moist physics in the model and increased satellite observation usage in cloudy regions in data assimilation.
ECMWF membership continues to grow. Last year was the first full year with Estonia as a Member State, and we were pleased to be able to raise the Estonian flag at our Reading headquarters in June, as well as to welcome Georgia as a Co-operating State in December. Our partnership with the European Union was also strengthened. We signed an agreement with the European Commission to continue implementing the EU-funded Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) and Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) for the next seven years.
This agreement includes the implementation of the European anthropogenic CO2 emission monitoring and verification support capability, which will support action on climate change in line with the Paris Agreement. ECMWF’s role as the computational centre for the hydrological forecasting activities of the EU-funded Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS) was also renewed until 2027. As computational centre, we will continue to help deliver the European and Global Flood Awareness Systems, EFAS and GloFAS.
To finish the year in style, the long-awaited Destination Earth agreement was signed with the European Commission, ensuring that ECMWF and its Member States, alongside ESA and EUMETSAT, can contribute to developing a highly accurate digital twin of our planet.
This was our second ‘COVID year’, one in which working remotely had become a habit and we built on what we had learned from this to revisit some of our operational policies, processes, and structures. We have started to rethink our environmental plan and to question our engagement modus operandi. It is still very early to assess how many of the changes we have been forced to make will remain. It is clear, however, that speaking at or attending a workshop or seminar remotely is no longer looked down upon, having fully virtual gatherings has become part of our business as usual, and hybrid meetings look set to become our new normal. As a new multi-site organisation, this changed way of functioning will no doubt be key to remaining ‘One ECMWF’.