Twenty years of 4D-Var at ECMWF

Developing a four-dimensional variational data assimilation system (4D-Var) was one of ECMWF’s biggest- ever projects, culminating with its operational implementation in November 1997. A symposium on 26 January reviewed the developments that followed in the 20 years to 2017.

Ocean observations workshop

More than 50 ocean and data assimilation experts met at ECMWF to discuss the way forward for the use of observations of sea-surface temperature (SST) and sea ice in numerical weather prediction (NWP) and climate applications. It was a unique opportunity for ocean, sea-ice and atmosphere experts to exchange information on recent and planned developments in data assimilation, observing systems and observation processing chains.

Storm Doris

AMS Annual Meeting

ECMWF had a strong presence at the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, with staff presenting ECMWF’s work through 14 talks and 2 poster sessions as well as a booth in the exhibition hall.

Storm DorisECMWF booth at the AMS Annual Meeting

First ECMWF Summer of Weather Code

The Centre launched its first Summer of Weather Code (ESoWC) programme, inviting software developers, start-ups, weather professionals and scientists to work with ECMWF to create new and innovative weather-related code. The resulting open-source projects were released in September and will prove useful to ECMWF and its Member and Co-operating States.


CHE project first General Assembly

ECMWF hosted the first General Assembly of the CO2 Human Emissions project (CHE), which brought together more than 50 experts from Europe and beyond. The EU-funded Horizon 2020 project is coordinated by ECMWF and is working towards an operational capacity to monitor anthropogenic CO2 emissions.


Extra radiosonde data from Arctic

Weather data collected by radiosondes in the normally sparsely observed Arctic region were used in ECMWF’s data assimilation system. The data were collected as part of the WMO Year of Polar Prediction special observing period. Investigations into their impact on forecasts, conducted at ECMWF for the EU-funded Horizon 2020 APPLICATE project, will help to provide guidance on an optimal observation network for the Arctic.

Multi-system seasonal forecasts

The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) multi-system seasonal forecast suite began running fully in operations. The forecasts include data and graphical products for several variables, including air and sea-surface temperature, up to six months ahead. An upgrade later in the year, in November, saw the number of models increase from 3 to 5, with DWD and CMCC joining Météo-France, the UK Met Office and ECMWF as contributing centres. ECMWF operates the C3S on behalf of the EU.

OpendatahackExample of a C3S multi-system seasonal forecast for mean 2m temperature anomaly

Atlas software library

ECMWF released the Atlas software library for public use under an open source licence. Atlas is an objectoriented (OO) programming library for the development of efficient numerical weather prediction and climate applications. It is used, for example, in the finite-volume module for ECMWF’s IFS and as a foundation for ECMWF’s Meteorological Interpolation and Regridding (MIR) interpolation software.


European State of the Climate

The EU-funded Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) and Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), both implemented by ECMWF, presented the European State of the Climate 2017 at the European Parliament. The report provided an overview of climate indicators for 2017 and the long-term evolution of several key climate variables, such as temperature, greenhouse gases, sea ice, sea level and glaciers.

First operational global flood forecasting system

The Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS), part of the EU-funded Copernicus Emergency Management Service - Early Warning Systems Floods component (CEMS-EWS Floods), began running in the ECMWF environment, becoming the first operational global flood forecasting system. A major upgrade followed in November. ECMWF is the computational centre for the CEMS-EWS Floods and Fire components.


© SlobodanMiljevic/iStock/Thinkstock


Online Forecast User Guide

The long-awaited, extensively updated edition of ECMWF’s user guide was published online at https://confluence.ecmwf.int/display/FUG/Forecast+User+Guide. The ECMWF Forecast User Guide helps forecasters and other meteorologists to make the best use of the Centre’s forecast products.

Model upgrade for European flood forecasting system

Continuing a busy period in flood prediction work for the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS), ECMWF implemented a major upgrade of the operational European Flood Awareness System (EFAS), part of CEMS-EWS Floods. The upgrade included an increase in the geographic coverage of EFAS and improvements in observation processing and hydrological modelling. The new ‘Extended Domain’ model cycle was co-developed by ECMWF and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC).


IFS Cycle 45r1

ECMWF’s Integrated Forecasting System was upgraded to IFS Cycle 45r1, bringing better global weather forecasts, with particularly consistent gains in the extended range. A key plank of the upgrade was enhanced dynamic coupling between the ocean, sea ice and the atmosphere. It also introduced new products useful in the prediction of severe weather, including forecasts of lightning flash density.

Cycle 45r1Cycle 45r1 included forecasts of lightning flash density.

© Lennart Sorth.

New ensemble vertical profiles

A new product to show the vertical structure of the atmosphere at a point in ensemble forecasts was incorporated into ECMWF’s web-based chart-viewing applications. It enables users to examine vertical profiles of the atmosphere anywhere across the globe, at 6-hour intervals, up to a lead time of 120 hours. These can provide considerable assistance with many forecasting challenges, such as predicting cloud layers, layers of instability, precipitation type, wind gust penetration to the surface, and the propensity for supercells to develop.

Ensemble vertical pro les of the atmosphereEnsemble vertical profiles of the atmosphere

UEF 2018: ‘The only limit is your imagination’

The Using ECMWF’s Forecasts meeting (UEF) was attended by a record number of more than 120 participants and focused on imaginative approaches to turning weather data into useful information. A variety of talks showed the use of ECMWF data to support forecasters at national meteorological services in Member and Co-operating States in their duties.

Using ECMWF’s Forecasts meetingUsing ECMWF’s Forecasts meeting

Climate Data Store and open data hackathon

The Climate Data Store (CDS) was launched by the EU-funded Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). It provides access to petabytes of open climate data from the European Commission’s Copernicus Programme, including observations, reanalyses, seasonal forecasts and climate projections, and provides policy- makers, businesses, scientists and other users with seamless access to data collections distributed over multiple data suppliers. The CDS and accompanying toolbox were put to the test by over 90 data enthusiasts who attended an open data climate hackathon at the Centre.

CAMS model upgrade

The global forecasting system of the EU-funded Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) was upgraded to IFS Cycle 45r1. The upgrade introduced observations of NO2 from the GOME-2 instrument onboard the MetOp-A and MetOp-B satellite platforms. Other changes included ozone observations from the Sentinel-5 Precursor satellite in monitoring mode, and several improvements to the aerosol model, resulting in improved sea salt aerosol and an improved representation of secondary organic aerosols.

European fire danger forecasts

ECMWF started the operational phase of the fire danger forecast production. This activity is part of the computational service that ECMWF provides to the EU-funded Copernicus Emergency Management Service – Early Warning Systems Fire (CEMS–EWS Fire). The 10-day forecasts produced feed into the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) and its global extension, the Global Wild fire Information System (GWIS).


More data for WMO members

As part of its role as a World Meteorological Centre, ECMWF made available additional data to Members of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to help users make better assessments of weather-related risks out to day 10. Additional fields are available from both probabilistic and deterministic forecasts, and all forecasts of weather variables are now provided at 6- or 12-hour time steps instead of 24-hour time steps.

Wildfires in Greece and Scandinavia

The unusually warm and dry summer significantly increased the risk of wildfires, with areas in Greece in particular experiencing devastating wildfire events. The unusual conditions also widely affected the northernmost European regions, with large parts of Scandinavia subject to recurrent fire episodes during the summer. The fire season was widely monitored, with maps from the EU-funded Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) showing the spread of smoke and pollution emitted by wildfires across the affected regions. Forecasts from CEMS-EWS Fire, computed by ECMWF, also captured the very high danger of fires 7 days ahead for Sweden and 3 days ahead for Greece.

Wildfires in Greece and Scandinavia

© Vasilvich/iStock/Getty Images Plus.


Aeolus satellite launch

The Aeolus satellite was launched successfully by the European Space Agency (ESA). The mission is expected to improve weather forecasts by providing vital information on winds across the globe. ECMWF will process the Aeolus data to provide wind products suitable for use in numerical weather prediction.

Aeolus in orbit with laser beamAeolus in orbit with laser beam.

© ESA/AOES Medialab.

European heatwave

The late spring and summer of 2018 were among the warmest on record for northern Europe. ECMWF extended-range forecasts predicted warm anomalies weeks in advance. The northerly extent and intraseasonal variability of the heatwave were reflected in forecasts up to two weeks ahead.

Maximum temperature in Europe, ECMWF analysis between 29 July & 6 August 2018Maximum temperature in Europe, ECMWF analysis between 29 July & 6 August 2018


Typhoon Mangkhut

Super-typhoon Mangkhut hit the Philippines and southern China, causing loss of life, flooding, and extensive damage. Satellite data proved crucial for predicting the landfall on the Philippines. The prediction for the landfall on China was particularly important as it threatened densely populated Hong Kong. ECMWF worked with the Hong Kong Observatory on the evaluation of this event. The difficult elements lay in predicting the re-intensification after passing the Philippines, the interaction with other synoptic features, and the size of the cyclone. The cyclone passed to the south of Hong Kong, but the large radius of the cyclone put the city inside the swathe of extreme winds.

CAMS global atmospheric composition reanalysis

The CAMS Reanalysis dataset for 2003–2016 was released to the public, providing consistent information on aerosols and reactive gases using a fully integrated atmospheric composition modelling system based on ECMWF’s IFS.

CAMS global reanalysis for carbon monoxide averaged over May 2003.CAMS global reanalysis for carbon monoxide averaged over May 2003.


Annual Seminar on Earth system data assimilation

Nineteen speakers presented progress and challenges in Earth system data assimilation at ECMWF’s Annual Seminar, which attracted more than a hundred participants.

Director of Research Andy BrownDirector of Research Andy Brown

HPC Workshop

ECMWF’s 18th workshop on high-performance computing (HPC) in meteorology looked especially at scalability and I/O of weather and climate applications on HPC systems. It attracted 113 external participants representing around 60 organisations from ECMWF’s Member and Co-operating States as well as from the USA, Canada, China and Japan.


New Computing Director

Dr Martin Palkovič joined the Centre to become ECMWF’s Director of Computing. He will use previous experience of establishing and managing a supercomputing centre in the Czech Republic and his experience in industry to contribute towards the exciting challenge of moving ECMWF’s data centre to Bologna, Italy.

Director of Computing Martin PalkovičDirector of Computing Martin Palkovič.

© Sznapka Petr.

Start of ESCAPE-2 project

The ESCAPE-2 project on energy-efficient scalable algorithms for weather and climate prediction at exascale was formally launched at ECMWF. The three-year project is coordinated by ECMWF and funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Future and Emerging Technologies for High-Performance Computing (FET-HPC) programme.

Work with WMO on observation monitoring

ECMWF and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop the Quality Monitoring Function of the WIGOS Data Quality Monitoring System (WDQMS) to a pre-operational status. The work will benefit the Member States and help to improve the quality of the global observing systems. As part of this, ECMWF will make available an interactive web mapping interface to facilitate the exploration of quality monitoring statistics for conventional observations.

High Frequency Products

Hourly data and 06/18 UTC forecast runs from ECMWF’s Boundary Conditions Optional Programme became available to all users holding a real-time licence.

MIR operational

The Meteorological Interpolation and Regridding package (MIR) was successfully put into operational use after many months of validation.

EFAS output in meteorological archive

The European Flood Awareness System (EFAS), part of CEMS-EWS Floods, started archiving operational hydrological model output in the ECMWF Meteorological Archival and Retrieval System (MARS), making the data more widely accessible to users.


HPCF tender and Bologna data centre

An invitation to tender was released for ECMWF’s next high-performance computing facility (HPCF), which will be hosted in the new data centre. An event in Bologna on 13 November brought together Member States and representatives from the Emilia-Romagna Region to mark the start in earnest of the building of the new data centre. It incorporated a media briefing, a virtual tour of the facility and architectural plans, and a panel discussion on big data in weather prediction and the Emilia- Romagna region.

Python workshop

In the second workshop of its kind, ECMWF hosted Python experts from around the world to review progress in developing Python frameworks for Earth system sciences. The language is increasingly being used as an interface to interact with ECMWF data and services related to numerical weather prediction and climate science.

Metop-C launch

The Metop-C satellite was launched successfully, completing the EUMETSAT Polar System (EPS) of three polar-orbiting satellites that started with the launch of Metop-A in 2006. The satellite will make a major contribution to the observations available to ECMWF, helping to ensure the continuous supply of crucial data to help initialise numerical weather prediction models.


European Weather Cloud

Following preliminary testing, ECMWF’s Council approved the development of a two-year pilot run jointly by ECMWF and EUMETSAT. The vision is to set up a federated Cloud Computing infrastructure focused on meteorological data to serve the European Meteorological Infrastructure and its users and customers.

Scientific Advisory Committee members

ECMWF’s Council re-appointed Prof. Eigil Kaas to the Scientific Advisory Committee for a second term of office and appointed new members Dr Henk Eskes, Prof. Thomas Jung, Dr Chiara Piccolo and Dr Isabel Trigo for a first term of office.

ERA5 climate reanalysis

ECMWF generated datasets for the period 1979–2017 for the ERA5 global atmospheric reanalysis, building up to the official release of ERA5 in 2019 through the EU-funded Copernicus Climate Change Service.

2018 exceptionally warm

Data released by the EU-funded Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) showed that 2018 was the fourth in a series of exceptionally warm years. The C3S data show that 2018 surface temperatures were more than 0.4°C higher than the long-term average recorded over the period 1981–2010.