At ECMWF, the impact of the 2020 global pandemic will be felt for many years to come, but it has also strengthened the great partnership that connects us to our Member and Co‑operating States.

We often tend to look at the year that has just gone by as a ‘special’ year. We review all the challenges we had to overcome, we take pride in all the achievements, and appreciate the great partnership that connects us to our colleagues in our Member and Co‑operating States. 2020 is in a category of its own.

2020 gives the notion of ‘special’ a new dimension. It was a year when we had to learn to do without things we took for granted. Like aircraft data, which had come to play an important role in numerical weather prediction. From one day to the next, they were gone, and rather quickly replaced by data that some Member States produced through an increased radiosonde programme and by satellite data which were just starting to reach us. Or working from our offices, together, exchanging views in corridors and comparing test results over a coffee, smoothly replaced by remote and virtual exchanges thanks to a fantastic infrastructure implemented in recent years by our Computing teams.

You will find in the following pages a review of many achievements, such as the implementation of a wide-ranging Integrated Forecasting System (IFS) upgrade which is improving global weather forecasts and substantially improving analyses and forecasts in the stratosphere.

We also had major upgrades for our EU-funded Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) and the European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) that is part of the Copernicus Emergency Management Service. For CAMS, the model upgrade, which uses IFS 47r1, brought improved forecasts of sea salt and dust aerosol, particulate matter and stratospheric ozone. For EFAS, major new upgrades brought a step change in time resolution and deliver a huge volume of open-access data, fundamentally changing the way the forecasts are calculated and the quality of what is being provided.

The extension of the ERA5 reanalysis backward in time to 1950 and later on to 1940, possibly 1925, will complete a century-long global dataset that can be used, for example, to provide lateral boundary conditions for a century-long European reanalysis.

A detailed report on the state of the European climate, released in 2020 by our EU-funded Copernicus Climate Change Service, confirmed that 2019 was the warmest year on record, continuing a trend that meant 11 of the 12 warmest years in Europe had occurred since 2000. 

Hundreds of our forecast maps and charts became accessible to all, allowing users to share, redistribute and adapt the information as they require, even for commercial applications. This latter change also included historical information in ECMWF’s huge data repository – the Meteorological Archival and Retrieval System (MARS). 

The close partnership between ECMWF and EUMETSAT showed once again its strength through the joint cloud computing infrastructure for the meteorological community, the European Weather Cloud, which entered a new phase. The focus has been on working with users in the Member States currently trialling applications on the pilot infrastructure to evaluate the platform and to shape the future operational services. 

However, not everything went smoothly, and the impact of the pandemic on some of our activities will be felt for a while yet.

Our data centre in Bologna as well as the Atos supercomputers we contracted at the beginning of the year have suffered delays, which we cannot ignore. They will not be as damaging as they could have been, had it not been for the efforts of the Italian authorities and the steadfastness of our staff, but they will be felt nonetheless.

It is difficult to pat oneself on the back in light of the pain and suffering that 2020 has brought. However, the weather did not stop affecting our society, and we have continued to deliver data to our Member and Co‑operating States, supporting them in their duty to protect life and property in their countries, as they were facing the same challenges. We have continued to advance weather science for the benefit of our community, and for this, credit goes to our staff, whose dedication and talent have prevailed over the challenging situation, and to our colleagues and partners across the Member and Co‑operating States, whose team spirit has ensured that our common mission could endure.

June 2021

Ensemble forecast skillChanges to ECMWF’s Integrated Forecasting System (IFS) introduced with recent upgrades had a clear positive impact on the skill of ensemble forecasts. The chart shows 850 hPa temperature for the northern hemisphere extratropics. Shown are 12-month (red) and 3-month (blue) running average values of the forecast range at which the continuous ranked probability skill score (CRPSS) drops below 25%.
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