ECMWF has maintained its lead in global modelling, with the ensemble lead time ahead by about one day compared to other global centres in the medium range and by about one week in the extended range.

2018 marked the start of a new phase in ECMWF’s life. After the major decision to move our data centre to Bologna was made, the design and implementation plans started in earnest. The year was a bit of a juggling exercise for all, maintaining the scientific and operational standards necessary to continue to best serve our Member States, whilst setting up the framework for a new multi-site operation, defining our high-performance computing (HPC) requirements, and starting to develop plans for our new office accommodation.

The year was marked by noticeable progress towards our Strategy to 2025, with an upgrade of the Integrated Forecasting System in June (IFS Cycle 45r1) bringing seamless coupling to a dynamical 3-dimensional ocean and sea-ice model in all ECMWF forecasts. New continuous data assimilation was developed and tested, allowing the assimilation of observations taken up to one and half hours later than before, as well as an earlier start of the 4D-Var analysis for an identical delivery time. Experimental results for this process, implemented as part of IFS Cycle 46r1 in June 2019, show consistent improvements, translating into a 2 to 3-hour gain in forecast skill. Substantial progress has been made by coupling the complete IFS moist physical parametrizations to the prospective IFS- Finite Volume Module (FVM) dynamical core. The results so far bode well for the future, with the new approach giving us enhanced flexibility to be able to take advantage of evolving HPC architectures. Other areas of progress include a more efficient use of observations, the performance of physical parametrizations linked to the impact of mountains, and the start of a two-year pilot for our European Weather Cloud joint project with EUMETSAT.

The Scalability Programme continued to fulfil lynchpin role between science and computing, ensuring that ECMWF and its Member States are best equipped for the architectures of the future.

Our Copernicus activities have been thriving, with reanalyses for climate monitoring (ERA5) and atmospheric composition having been completed, CAMS widely expanding its reach, C3S becoming operational with the highly-anticipated release of the Climate Data Store (CDS), as well as the release of our first State of the Climate. GloFAS also became operational and the younger fire and CO2 activities have started to make their mark, including with the first release of operational fire danger forecasts.

Forecast skill – wind
Forecast skill – windEvolution of forecast skill of ENS 10m wind speed in the northern hemisphere extratropics. The graph shows the CRPS (lower values are better) at day 10. 12-month running averages are shown in red and 3-monthly averages are shown in blue.
Forecast skill – precipitation
Forecast skill – precipitationECMWF High Resolution 12 UTC precipitation forecast skill relative to ERA5 has been the highest ever in 2018. Here shown as annual means.

It was a year when the staff who make ECMWF showed again not only their talent and skills, but also their resilience in the face of all the changes brought about by the development of the new data centre, and the administrative, reputational and emotional complexities brought about by Brexit.

The older and the younger generations of our scientists deserve credit for meeting, exchanging knowledge, exploring and collaborating with delegates from all our Member and Co-operating States and far beyond to continue to push the boundaries of science. Our gratitude goes to our Fellows, our visiting scientists, our workshop and seminar delegates, our graduate trainees, our Council for supporting and guiding us throughout 2018, and our staff for delivering yet another year of extremely hard and successful work.

June 2019

Bologna13 November 2018, representatives of ECMWF Member States and the Emilia-Romagna Regione gather at the site of the new data centre in Bologna, Italy to mark the start of the building works.