Accurate and timely weather data from across the globe are crucial for numerical weather prediction since they help to determine the initial conditions from which forecasts start.
ECMWF works with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and observation providers around the world to investigate all opportunities for new observations and advance efforts to make the best possible use of the data.
2018 was rich in developments to improve the use of existing and new observations. Our forecasting system upgrade enabled the use of more satellite observations over land and sea ice and introduced a scheme to account for the horizontal drift of radiosondes during their ascent. We also saw promising results for the prospects of extracting even more value from radiosondes by using data collected as the radiosonde descends.
In a world first, scientists at the Centre successfully demonstrated the feasibility of assimilating space-borne radar and lidar observations directly into a 4D-Var assimilation system on the global scale, paving the way for the use of data from ESA’s future EarthCARE satellite.
New satellites launched in 2018 will make a valuable contribution to the global observing system.
ESA’s Aeolus satellite, launched in August, is the first to acquire profiles of the wind on a global scale. ECMWF has been closely involved with the mission right from the design phase. Of particular note in 2018 was ECMWF’s direct involvement in the Aeolus ground segment, resulting in the first production of level-2 wind data from Aeolus less than two weeks after launch. The new near-real-time data from this satellite is expected to lead to improvements in determining the state of the atmosphere in the tropics.
A further boost to the observing system came with the launch of EUMETSAT’s Metop-C in November. Metop-C will provide information on temperature and humidity, atmospheric composition, the ocean and the land surface which can be used for climate studies and weather prediction.
Additional satellite observations were activated in the operational ECMWF assimilation system in 2018 (see table). Operational use is the result of in-depth research and testing in collaboration with partners.
In partnership with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), we began assimilating radiance data from GOES-16 in July 2018, before the official product was due to become available. This satellite gives vital information on severe weather events such as storms, hurricanes and wildfires.
Atmospheric composition data from ESA’s Sentinel-5P satellite brought major benefits for the monitoring and prediction capabilities of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), implemented by ECMWF on behalf of the EU. The TROPOMI instrument measures radiation at different wavelengths at the top of the atmosphere, providing information on the amount of ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, formaldehyde and methane in the atmosphere.
Through work with INPE in Brazil, we started to receive radiosonde data from INPE’s Antarctic ship campaign and provided support to ensure the data became available to all Member and Co-operating States through the WMO Global Telecommunication System (GTS).
We also contributed to field campaigns such as the ‘Atmospheric River Reconnaissance’ campaign over the eastern Pacific, which collected information on storm characteristics and provided data that ECMWF could use for diagnostics and to further our understanding of atmospheric predictability.