Seven scientists began ECMWF Fellowships in 2021, exploring topics such as atmospheric dynamics and composition, extreme events and predictability, and ensemble forecast post-processing.

Collaboration in research sits at the heart of our approach to numerical weather prediction. Partnerships with the Member and Co-operating State national meteorological services and academia are a key part of how we work.

Research should not be carried out in isolation; fresh viewpoints and sharing ideas and expertise across disciplines are vital. Whilst our core mission is to support our Member States and the wider community, through prediction in the medium and extended ranges, academic institutions add value to our research through their expertise and their flexibility to explore further into the future. For example, a research partnership with the University of Oxford and Météo-France led to a significant upgrade in our Integrated Forecasting System (IFS) this year, with a move from double to single precision. This change is computationally less expensive and the efficiency savings will greatly facilitate model improvements.

We have partnerships with academic institutions and individuals around the world, but primarily with organisations in our Member and Co-operating States. Our staff may act as co-supervisors for doctoral research students, contribute to research proposals, or undertake postgraduate studies that feed into our programmes of activity.

During 2021, we marked ten years of OpenIFS activity, which aims to provide access to the IFS for research and education, including for academic institutions. Institutions within our Member States may also apply to run ‘Special Project’ experiments through our supercomputing facility.

Seven scientists began ECMWF Fellowships in 2021, exploring topics such as atmospheric dynamics and composition, extreme events and predictability, and ensemble forecast post-processing. Fellows have access to our computing facilities and databases and share their results through our website and relevant publications.

Working with researchers around the world
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Collaborations provide wide-ranging benefits that feed into our strategic objectives, through general scientific advances and through targeting specific challenges.

For example, the prediction of tropical cyclones is extremely important at ECMWF and provides us with valuable meteorological information. These powerful storms cause destruction through the action of waves and storm surges as much as through high wind speeds. The uncertainties associated with their intensity and tracks make it essential to use ensemble forecasts that provide a range of possible outcomes and so can be used to assess risk. Accurate forecasting can help communities prepare for, and recover from, the impacts of these devastating events.

As a visiting scientist, Professor Sharan Majumdar, from the University of Miami, was an active member of our research team during 2021. With an interest in ECMWF ensemble data, he focused on improving tropical cyclone prediction, through investigating genesis and intensity prediction. He diagnosed a suite of experiments for an active tropical cyclone period during 2020, and the outcomes were published in an ECMWF Technical Memorandum.

During the year, we also started work on NextGEMS, a project funded through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, which aims to substantially increase the realism of Earth system simulations to study anthropogenic climate change. The consortium comprises 26 institutes, including from the Member States, and is generating strong collaborations with the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, the Alfred Wegener Institut and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, amongst others.

The NextGEMS team at ECMWF produced the first 75-day simulations at around 4 km resolution, with the IFS. Feedback from academic partners on the quality of these simulations helped us improve the representation of moist processes in our forecasting system. Consortium members also held a hackathon; a key finding of the event was that water and energy are not well conserved in the simulations. Our teams quickly identified solutions that will also lead to a better representation of precipitation and the large-scale atmospheric state.

Our new multi-site setup has opened further opportunities to strengthen partnerships. For example, with the University of Reading and with the Center for Earth System Observations and Computational analysis (CESOC), which brings together research at the Universities of Bonn and Cologne and the Jülich Research Centre. Discussions also commenced with the University of Bologna on a new Memorandum of Understanding.