2019 marked 40 years since ECMWF disseminated its first operational medium-range forecast. In the decades since then, the Centre has continued to work with its Member and Co-operating States and other partners to improve the quality, range and accessibility of its weather forecasts. Free and open data to help address today’s environmental challenges are also being provided through ECMWF’s growing involvement in the EU’s Copernicus Programme.

Events and workshops
Events and workshops
Forty years of operational forecastingEnsemble re-forecast of ECMWF’s first operational forecast (bottom). Initial conditions on 1 August 1979 at 12 UTC for the 50-member ensemble are derived from the ERA5 ensemble reanalysis. This 7-day forecast uses the current operational model (IFS Cycle 46r1). Contours show the ensemble-mean 1000 hPa height field which can be compared with the first operational forecast (top). Grey shading shows the ensemble standard deviation. The coloured regions highlight the detail and ensemble information available in present-day forecasts.

Access to forecast products and software

Several new products were introduced with Cycle 46r1 of the Integrated Forecasting System (IFS), including 200 m winds, for wind turbine related applications, and specialised wave model parameters.

In September, the dissemination of a number of products, such as daily ensemble information, moved 20 minutes earlier.

New software became operational for the generation of forecast products for our Member and Co-operating States and other users. It provides more efficient and robust user-tailored post-processing as well as making maintenance and development easier.

The Scalable Acquisition and Pre-Processing (SAPP) Optional Programme was launched early in 2019. The programme provides Member and Co-operating States with the option to install, in their own operational environment, ECMWF’s system for acquiring and processing observations and other input data. By June it was supported by 15 Member and Co-operating States, and in November Met Éireann used SAPP for the first time operationally. ECMWF also hosted a number of visiting analysts from participating countries and a workshop on the programme.

SAPP workshop
SAPP workshopThe first workshop was attended by more than 25 representatives from 14 Member and Co-operating States.

The second ECMWF Summer of Weather Code invited software developers, weather professionals and scientists to work with ECMWF mentors to create new and innovative software offering benefits for forecasting models, users and training.

OpenIFS@home started as a new collaboration with the University of Oxford’s e-research centre and has seen a low-resolution version of OpenIFS included within the ‘climateprediction.net’ framework. This framework allows the OpenIFS to run on tens of thousands of volunteer computers providing a large ensemble of experiments without the use of a supercomputer.

Developments in artificial intelligence (AI) are bringing new tools that can be used to emulate complex non-linear systems, to detect patterns in large datasets and to downscale coarse-scale products. Potential applications of machine learning, and in particular deep learning, exist across the entire workflow of NWP, environmental and climate services. The scope for widening the use of AI in Earth system applications was discussed at the ‘1st Artificial Intelligence for Copernicus workshop’ held at the Centre in November and in a lecture for Council delegates in December.

At the end of its first year, the European Weather Cloud pilot project has implemented its first use cases and engaged Member States in the project, which in partnership with EUMETSAT aims to provide data-related services via cloud technology. Direct network connectivity was established between a user’s virtual machine and the data handling system, marking an important milestone in the project.

Training, workshops and knowledge sharing

ECMWF offers a broad training programme to increase the benefit of ECMWF forecast products to Member and Co-operating States. A new ‘NWP primer’ was run in conjunction with the OpenIFS course. In addition to standard training activities, in May ECMWF ran an online training week, providing webinars on specific topics related to the software packages and applications used at the Centre. Over 2019 as a whole, 770 people took part in ECMWF training courses, the majority of which were delivered as blended learning (online resources augmented with face-to-face sessions).

A study commissioned to assess the ECMWF training programme found that: (i) Member and Co-operating States are keen to collaborate with ECMWF in delivering learning activities; (ii) advertising of training-relevant events needs to be improved; (iii) online learning should be expanded; and (iv) clear levels and learning pathways need to be established. A new learning platform has been developed which will significantly improve the user experience and the tracking of individual learning journeys. It is the same platform as used by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) User Learning Services, adding to synergies between core ECMWF and Copernicus activities.

An active programme of events included the ‘Observational campaigns for better weather forecasts’ workshop to review and strengthen the synergies between observational field campaigns and numerical weather prediction. The user meeting in June (UEF 2019) focused on ensemble forecasting, while the Annual Seminar covered recent progress and future prospects for sub-seasonal and seasonal forecasting.

ECMWF has installed a higher quality live-streaming system, improving the remote access to events for delegates and speakers, as well as reducing their carbon footprint. For the first time, two online webinars were streamed ahead of the IFS upgrade in June to brief users on developments. The Centre is also encouraging staff to use webinars to share the science developed at ECMWF.

Liaison visits to Member and Co-operating States provided opportunities for knowledge sharing, networking and additional training, with visits made to Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania and Portugal.

Events and workshops
Events and workshops
Events and workshops
Events and workshopsUsing ECMWF Forecasts (top), 1st Copernicus AI workshop (centre), and visit from Twente University Applied Physics students, the Netherlands (bottom).

Fellows and secondees

In addition to its highly successful Fellowship Programme, ECMWF introduced a new programme of short-term secondments to facilitate the flow of talent between ECMWF and the national meteorological services of its Member and Co-operating States. Six such secondments were completed in 2019.

Four EUMETSAT Fellows are hosted at ECMWF. Their work spans research and operations: it ranges from assessing the quality of new satellite data before operational use to maintaining and improving the operational data assimilation system for the best use of such satellite data.

EUMETSAT FellowsEUMETSAT Research Fellows hosted at ECMWF investigate ways to improve the use of satellite data, including data from EUMETSAT’s Meteosat Second Generation satellites, a 1:4 scale model of which is shown in the picture. L-R: Katie Lean, Chris Burrows, Katrin Lonitz, Peter Weston.

ECMWF Fellows in 2019

  • Professor Tilmann Gneiting, leader of Computational Statistics group at Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) and Professor of Computational Statistics at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany
  • Professor Rupert Klein, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
  • Professor Tim Palmer, Royal Society Research Professor in Climate Physics at the University of Oxford, UK
  • Professor Daniel Jacob, Vasco McCoy Family Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Engineering, Harvard University, USA
  • Professor Heini Wernli, Professor of Atmospheric Dynamics at the Institute of Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • Professor Marc Bocquet, senior researcher and deputy director of CEREA, a joint laboratory of École des Ponts ParisTech and EdF R&D, and Professor at École des Ponts ParisTech, France
  • Dr Louise Nuijens, assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences and Remote Sensing at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), the Netherlands
  • Dr Maria-Helena Ramos, research scientist in hydrology and hydrometeorology at the National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture (Irstea), France

Copernicus services implemented by ECMWF

The use and visibility of the EU-funded Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) and the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) implemented by ECMWF continued to grow rapidly with increasing user numbers and growing coverage within traditional and social media.

2019 also saw a new Director of Copernicus Services at ECMWF. Jean-Noël Thépaut, a key player in the implementation of the C3S and CAMS at ECMWF, took up the position on 1 October when Juan Garces de Marcilla stepped down from the post.

The synergies between ECMWF and the Copernicus services it implements continue to bring benefits. Collaboration between C3S and CAMS and the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS) resulted in Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS) and European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) flood forecasts being made available through the C3S Climate Data Store.

A new Data and Information Access Service (DIAS) platform called WEkEO became operational, with 1,000 users by the end of 2019. Developed collaboratively with EUMETSAT and Mercator Ocean, WEkEO consists of cloud-based services that make all Copernicus data and information available to users, as well as providing data processing tools.

Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS)

In July the CAMS global forecasting system was successfully upgraded to IFS Cycle 46r1. CAMS-specific improvements included a doubling of vertical levels from 60 to 137; an increased number of aerosol species; and updated emissions datasets.

In the course of 2019 CAMS products were used extensively during a number of incidents, including air pollution and Saharan dust episodes affecting Europe, and wildfires over the Arctic and Brazil. During these incidents CAMS products were highly visible in social media and national news websites across Europe.

Global Fire Assimilation System
Global Fire Assimilation SystemData from the CAMS Global Fire Assimilation System showed that the daily radiative power from wildfires within the Arctic Circle was above the 2003 to 2018 average almost every day during summer 2019.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) is using regional air quality forecasts from CAMS as input to the European Air Quality Index platform. The European Commission’s DG-CLIMA Ozone Layer Unit is using CAMS ozone layer information for its website. A partnership with CNN International began in October to include CAMS data in their daily air quality bulletins.

By the end of 2019 the number of CAMS users had reached 13,000.

Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S)

By the end of 2019, the Climate Data Store (CDS) of the C3S had about 30,000 users, provided access to 45 datasets, and was delivering an average of 50 TB of data per day. The first set of public applications were released in the CDS Toolbox, allowing users to interact with the data in a simple way.

A major milestone for the C3S was reached at the beginning of 2019 with the availability in the CDS of 40 years of the latest ECMWF reanalysis dataset (ERA5, the successor of ERA-Interim), from 1979 to present. Work to extend ERA5 back to 1950 continued through the year. ERA5-Land data from 2001 to 2019 were also included in the CDS. ERA5-Land is a downscaled version of ERA5 at 9 km resolution providing more detailed land-surface variables, such as soil moisture and run-off.

Last but not least, the long awaited ERA5T was released in the CDS in December. ERA5T provides preliminary data for ERA5 on a daily basis, with a 5-day delay from real time.

Based on ERA5, the world’s first near real-time hydrological and fire danger reanalyses were released in the Climate Data Store in November. They provide an invaluable resource to help understand how unusual present-day wildfires and river flows are, and how they are changing.

ERA5Hurricane Florence struck the east coast of the US in September 2018. The plot shows the track (red dots), intensity (contours, in hPa) and accumulated rainfall (shading, in mm) at 09 UTC on 15 September 2018 from ERA5 and ERA-Interim (ECMWF’s previous reanalysis dataset).

Seasonal forecasts

The C3S multi-model seasonal forecasting system took over from EUROSIP, the project through which ECMWF had been providing multi-model seasonal forecasts since 2005. The C3S system has become mainstream for a number of users, including the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

The resources made available by C3S have allowed the inclusion of more forecasting systems, with contributions from the German meteorological service (DWD), the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (CMCC) in Italy and, most recently, the US National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) adding to the original three EUROSIP partners, (ECMWF, Météo-France and the UK Met Office).

Seasonal forecasts
Seasonal forecastsExample C3S multi-model forecast from 1 October 2019 of the ensemble mean 2-metre temperature anomaly for December 2019 to February 2020.

Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS)

ECMWF continued to contribute to the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS), in particular the early warning systems for flood and fire danger. A new web interface was released for EFAS that offers a more intuitive map viewer and provides new functionalities and access to old forecasts. The EFAS climatology and forecasts were also made available to the Copernicus Climate Data Store.

Working with the Universities of Reading and Bristol and the UK Government, real-time flood risk analyses were provided through GloFAS during a number of severe cyclone events in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Information was shared through the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Mozambique disaster management agency and NGOs in the region.

ECMWF started operational delivery of probabilistic extreme forecast information for the fire weather index. This represented the first issue of a fully probabilistic fire product by the European Forest Fire Information System.

© encrier / iStock / Getty Images Plus© encrier / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The synergies between ECMWF and the Copernicus services it implements continue to bring benefits.