Aeolus satellite data assimilated

On 9 January, ECMWF started assimilating wind data from the European Space Agency’s Aeolus satellite operationally, after tests showed that they significantly improve weather forecasts.

Atos supercomputing contract signed

ECMWF signed a four-year contract worth over 80 million euros with Atos for its BullSequana XH2000 supercomputer, to be installed in ECMWF’s new data centre in Italy. The new system will deliver an increase in sustained performance by a factor of about five compared to ECMWF’s current high-performance computing facility.

40-year thermal stress dataset released

ECMWF released global data on weather-induced, outdoor thermal stress and discomfort in human beings covering the period from 1979 to the present. The data were calculated using weather information from ECMWF’s ERA5 reanalysis coupled with models of human thermoregulation and clothing insulation.

Early warning advisory system strengthens capacity in SE Europe

ECMWF joined the second phase of a project to build a South-East European Multi-Hazard Early Warning Advisory System (SEE-MHEWS-A). The initiative aims to strengthen the existing early warning capacity in the region and is funded by the World Bank.

INCITE award enables 1 km resolution simulations

ECMWF scientists embarked on a project to carry out ground-breaking global weather and climate simulations at 1 km resolution after they were awarded time on the Summit supercomputer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US – the fastest computer in the world at the time. The award was one of 47 granted by the US INCITE programme.

ECMWF headquarters in Reading, UK.
© Madeleine Cotter


New ocean and sea ice variables added to forecast database

Nine new ocean and sea-ice variables were added to the multi-model sub-seasonal to seasonal (S2S) weather prediction database hosted by ECMWF. They help researchers to explore the predictability of ocean and sea-ice conditions and to compare the representation of air–ocean–sea-ice interactions in different models. The database includes ensemble forecasts three weeks behind real time and re-forecasts, up to 60 days ahead, from 11 forecasting centres.

WMO Task Team meets at ECMWF

A World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Task Team met at ECMWF to work on guidelines to help WMO Members make more effective use of ensemble forecasts, including those produced by ECMWF.

Artworks inspired by weather and climate

Over 80 artworks from 27 artists were displayed at ECMWF’s first art exhibition. The sculptures, paintings and photography all conveyed weather-related topics in their own beautifully unique ways.


Web tools launched to monitor global meteorological observations

The WMO and ECMWF launched a new web-based interface to help monitor the availability and quality of global meteorological observations.

Moving online as pandemic grows

ECMWF staff based in Bologna began working remotely in February. By late March, Reading-based staff were also working remotely, apart from a small number of key staff needed on site. ECMWF began moving all its training courses and workshops online, starting with a workshop on the challenges posed by warm conveyor belts. In addition to its usual programme of events and training, the Centre held a series of ten seminars by international experts to explore the use of machine learning in weather prediction and climate studies.

Aircraft-based observations available to weather prediction centres decreased.
© Serjio74/iStock/Thinkstock

Coordinated response to drop in aircraft observations

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a sharp drop in flights and thus in the aircraft-based observations available to weather prediction centres. Between mid-March and mid-April, the number of aircraft reports received at ECMWF went down by about 75%. A coordinated response involving EUMETNET, national meteorological services and private companies helped to mitigate any adverse effects of the loss of aircraft-based observations on weather forecasts.

COSMIC-2 data improve forecasts

ECMWF started assimilating GNSS radio occultation (GNSS-RO) measurements from the FORMOSAT-7/COSMIC-2 mission (COSMIC-2) on 25 March. COSMIC-2 represents a significant increase in the number of occultations available for operational assimilation at ECMWF, from around 3,000 per day to around 8,000. The new measurements have a large impact in the tropics, improving temperature, humidity and wind forecasts in the short and medium range.

Support for Croatian met service following earthquake

Following an earthquake that severely damaged the Croatian Meteorological and Hydrological Service’s (DHMZ) headquarters, DHMZ successfully backed up its operational production and essential services on ECMWF’s high-performance computing facility (HPCF) and the European Weather Cloud.


ECMWF data supports COVID research

ECMWF extended the EC’s Joint Research Centre’s existing licence to provide additional forecast outputs and expertise to support the response to the COVID-19 emergency situation. The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) and the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) – both implemented by ECMWF on behalf of the EC – helped researchers, policy-makers and citizens alike with quality-assured data and tools.

Strong contribution at EGU assembly

Global scientific engagement continued through the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 30 ECMWF scientists participated in the virtual European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly.

TIGGE archive continues to grow

The TIGGE database of global medium-range ensemble forecasts hosted by ECMWF holds a growing range of data from 13 forecasting centres readily available to researchers worldwide. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) rejoined TIGGE in April. In December, outputs from the global model ICON produced by the German national meteorological service (DWD) also started to be added to the TIGGE archive.

2019 warmest year on record

A detailed report on the state of the European climate 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. The European State of the Climate 2019 report was published by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S).


Summer coding challenges begin

From May to August, nine developer teams worked closely with ECMWF and Copernicus mentors on a range of open-source projects as part of ECMWF’s Summer of Weather Code (ESoWC). A virtual presentation day on 16 October showcased the outcomes, including applications using machine learning and artificial intelligence, projects using Copernicus open data and responses to challenges related to ECMWF’s model performance, data storage and archiving.

European Weather Cloud users share progress

At a joint workshop, ECMWF and EUMETSAT introduced users to the features of the cloud computing systems being developed for their European Weather Cloud and presented existing projects. A second workshop followed in October. The European Weather Cloud is expected to become operational in 2022, with the pilot phase having been extended by one year.


Forecasting system upgrade improves forecasts in the stratosphere

A wide-ranging upgrade of ECMWF’s Integrated Forecasting System (IFS), implemented on 30 June, improved global weather forecasts and substantially improved analyses and forecasts in the stratosphere. The upgrade to IFS Cycle 47r1 brought many changes in data assimilation and Earth system modelling. It also introduced a new tropical cyclone wind radii product, which will facilitate the identification of wind-related hazards.

Virtual user meeting extends its reach

Going online, the Centre’s annual user meeting – Using ECMWF’s Forecasts (UEF) – attracted 227 people from over 40 countries, increasing the reach of the event to the wide community of ECMWF users. The theme was ‘Keeping users at the heart of operations’, and participants discussed how weather and environmental information providers can meet end-users’ needs by delivering added-value outputs.

Silvio Cau elected Council President

ECMWF’s Council elected Gen. Isp. G.A. Silvio Cau, then Head of the Italian National Meteorological Service, as its President, to succeed Prof. Juhani Damski from Finland.

Additional data accessible to WMO Members

ECMWF extended the set of ‘Additional’ products available to WMO Members for non-commercial use to include variables from the 06 and 18 UTC forecast runs as well as those already available for 00 and 12 UTC. These ‘high-frequency’ products can help forecasters to provide up-to-date information about extreme weather situations. In addition, four more high-resolution forecast products, surface skin temperature, surface pressure, soil temperature and total column water vapour, were also made available.

Strategy 2021–2030 approved

The ECMWF Council approved a new long-term Strategy for the Centre for the period 2021–2030. The Strategy foresees a pushing of the boundaries of weather science to achieve improved global ensemble forecasts at much finer resolution, maximising the use of current and upcoming observations and using machine learning methodologies throughout the numerical weather prediction chain.


Warnings help Bangladesh prepare for monsoon floods

Large floods hit Bangladesh on 15 July and affected nearly 5 million people, with 41 casualties reported. Forecasts from the Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS), produced by ECMWF as part of the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS), were used by the Bangladesh Flood Forecasting Warning Centre to provide advance notice to prepare for the floods. UN agencies, with NGOs such as the Red Cross, launched a disaster response pre-activation on 4 July, allowing parties involved in disaster response to take advance action to mitigate the impact.


Extreme Forecast Index (EFI) (shading) for mean 2m temperature between 7 August 00 UTC and 12 August 00 UTC 2020 in the forecast from 3 August 2020, 00 UTC.

Strong heatwave affects western Europe

Western Europe underwent a strong heatwave, with Paris for example measuring above 35°C and London Heathrow above 33°C during 6 consecutive days (7–12 August). The heatwave later propagated to the north-east and affected Scandinavia. The ensemble forecast started to pick up the signal for the anomaly around 28–30 July, and the ensemble median was consistently above the 99th percentile of the model climate from 3 August onwards.


Annual Seminar focuses on atmospheric and oceanic modelling

More than 300 researchers from across the world joined ECMWF’s virtual Annual Seminar 2020. The topic was ‘Recent developments in numerical methods for atmospheric and oceanic modelling’. The 27 speakers at the online event described state-of-the-art computational methods for solving the equations that govern atmospheric, wave, ocean and sea-ice dynamics.

Annual Seminar 2020, on numerical methods for atmospheric and oceanic modelling.


Atos and ECMWF launch centre of excellence

Atos and ECMWF launched a Centre of Excellence in HPC, AI and Quantum Computing for Weather and Climate. It will provide ECMWF researchers with access to emerging artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing technologies and expertise, and benefit from ECMWF’s high-performance computing (HPC) resources that will be in Bologna, Italy.

Forecast charts made freely available

Hundreds of previously restricted ECMWF forecast charts became free and accessible to all. Products include medium-range, extended-range and long-range forecast charts of temperature, wind, precipitation, clouds and ocean waves. There was also a move to an open data policy for historical information contained in ECMWF’s archive. This will expand the use of the data and allow re-use, stimulating further research and development of applications.

Step-change for European Flood Awareness System

The European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) was upgraded to version 4.0, benefiting from a recalibrated hydrological model (LISFLOOD) using sub-daily steps. The hydrological skill improvement provided by the new calibration and the higher time resolution of the products based on LISFLOOD outputs will allow for more timely notification of the beginning and peak of predicted flood events. ECMWF operates the computational centre for EFAS, a component of the EU Copernicus Emergency Management Service.

Support for WMO Systematic Observations Financing Facility

ECMWF signed a joint statement with the WMO, EUMETNET and EUMETSAT urging European governments and institutions and all multilateral climate and environment financing institutions to consider funding a new initiative called the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF). The SOFF aims to increase the availability of observational data by involving national meteorological services, global data producing centres, aid agencies and the private sector.

CAMS forecasting model upgraded

The CAMS global forecasting system was upgraded on 6 October, bringing improved forecasts of sea salt and dust aerosol, particulate matter and stratospheric ozone. The new operational system uses the latest version of ECMWF’s Integrated Forecasting System (IFS Cycle 47r1).


ERA5 reanalysis extended back to 1950

C3S released an extension to the ERA5 reanalysis dataset to help users analyse how the climate is changing. Previously covering 1979 to the present day, ERA5 now extends back to 1950. ERA5 is the backbone of many C3S products and services, including the monthly climate bulletins. It provides hour-by-hour information on a wide range of climate variables covering the atmosphere, land surface and ocean waves.

Workshop reviews error handling in satellite data assimilation

Almost 200 experts from around the world joined a four-day, online workshop on the treatment of random and systematic errors in satellite data assimilation for numerical weather prediction (NWP), organised by ECMWF and the EUMETSAT-funded NWP Satellite Application Facility (SAF). Speakers reviewed the strong progress in recent years, both in the treatment of errors in the assimilation and in the understanding of their characteristics.


Taimar Ala (Director of the Estonian Met Service) and Rene Kokk (then Estonian Minister of the Environment).
© Ministry of the Environment of Estonia; photo: Karoliine Mäeots

Estonia welcomed as a Member State

On 1 December, Estonia became ECMWF’s 23rd Member State, having been a Co‑operating State since 2005.

Bonn to host new ECMWF premises

The ECMWF Council selected the German city of Bonn to host new, additional premises from late 2021. This third site will complement the Centre’s headquarters in the UK and the data centre being developed in Bologna, Italy.

ECMWF sites in the UK, Germany and Italy.

Council President and scientific advisors appointed

The ECMWF Council elected Dr Daniel Gellens, Director-General of the Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium, as its President, following the retirement of Silvio Cau from the Italian national meteorological service. At the same time, it re-appointed five members of the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) for a second term: Dr Inger-Lise Frogner, Dr Susanna Corti, Prof. Gunilla Svensson, Dr Anthony Weaver and Prof. Dr Pier Siebesma.

Member States support ECMWF involvement in Destination Earth

The ECMWF Council authorised ECMWF to enter into formal negotiations with the EC, ESA and EUMETSAT to conclude an agreement for the Destination Earth programme, which aims to support the EU’s green transition by providing a new Earth system simulation and observation capability.

Fellowship programme grows

Seven highly respected scientists from Europe and the United States were confirmed as ECMWF Fellows from 1 January 2021: Prof. Sándor Baran, Prof. Hannah Cloke, Prof. Dr Daniela Domeisen, Prof. Patrick Eriksson, Dr Christian Grams, Prof. Dr Daniela Jacob, and Dr Gabriele Pfister. Their appointments bring the number of Fellows to 11, after the 3 inaugural Fellows completed their terms in July 2020.

ecFlow5 improves computational workflows

ECMWF released a new version of its ecFlow workflow package that is used by ECMWF and Member and Co‑operating States for managing workflows for large-scale data-intensive computational processes. Version 5 of ecFlow brought many modernisations and improvements in terms of features, performance, security and maintainability.

CO2 emissions project, an H2020 success story

A three-year, EU Horizon 2020 project to build a European monitoring capacity for anthropogenic CO2 emissions ended, having successfully met all its targets. A key outcome of the CO2 Human Emissions (CHE) project coordinated by ECMWF was a new global simulation that realistically illustrates the variability of CO2 in the atmosphere, which will assist research studies monitoring anthropogenic CO2 emissions in support of the Paris Agreement. CHE was presented as an H2020 success story at the EU Space Week, and its work will continue in the CoCO2 project.

CAMS monitors unusual ozone Antarctic hole

The 2020 long-lived Antarctic ozone hole finally came to an end in late December, after a highly unusual and record-breaking season. The large size, very low ozone levels and duration of the 2020 southern hemisphere ozone hole were all unusual, and the hole finally closed almost a month later than has been average since the 1980s. Overall, it was one of the largest and deepest ozone holes of the past 40 years, according to CAMS and C3S records, due to an exceptionally cold Antarctic stratosphere, and a strong and persistent polar vortex that persisted right into December.

Air temperature at a height of 2 m for 2020, shown relative to its 1981–2010 average.
Source: ERA5. Credit: Copernicus Climate Change Service/ECMWF

2020 marks end of warmest decade on record

Data released by C3S showed that globally 2020 was on par with the warmest year ever recorded (2016), marking the end of the warmest decade on record. Europe saw its warmest year on record, 0.4°C warmer than 2019, which was previously the warmest year.