2023 At a glance

MOOC training explores machine learning in weather and climate

Our Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on machine learning in weather and climate ran from January to April, mixing interactive eLearning with webinars. The fully online, free training course was accessible to a global audience, with elements suitable for various levels of expertise. Over 9,000 participants registered, and more than 6,000 received certificates for completing one or more tiers. The course was organised in partnership with the International Foundation on Big Data and Artificial Intelligence for Human Development (IFAB).

WMO Fellow evaluates forecasts for Maldives region

Ahmed Shabin from the Maldives Meteorological Service joined us for a 12-month World Meteorological Organization (WMO) fellowship. His study into the forecast skill of IFS hindcasts/ERA5 in predicting the onset of southwest monsoon winds over the Maldives led to the development of a model product that could assist forecasters in declaring monsoon onset over the Maldives. The fellowship also provided an insight into day-to-day operations at ECMWF, as well as opportunities for training and to share expertise in weather and its impacts in the Maldives with colleagues at ECMWF.

Tropical Cyclone Freddy longest on record

Tropical Cyclone Freddy tracked the entire Southern Indian Ocean from east to west, affecting Mauritius and La Réunion before crossing Madagascar. It made landfall in Mozambique twice, causing havoc in the region due to heavy rainfall and severe floods. At 34 days, the WMO said it was likely to be the longest-lasting tropical cyclone on record.

Monitoring Freddy with IFS Cycle 48r1, in testing at the time for implementation in June, highlighted improvements in cyclone track and intensity forecasts due to the increased horizontal resolution of ensemble forecasts. Early signals of severe upcoming floods over southern Mozambique were present in the Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS) ten days before the actual flood peak was observed.

View of Tropical Cyclone Freddy making landfall over Madagascar on 21 February 2023 from EUMETSAT’s Meteosat-9 satellite.

View of Tropical Cyclone Freddy making landfall over Madagascar on 21 February 2023 from EUMETSAT’s Meteosat-9 satellite.

© EUMETSAT

European scientists to represent radio spectrum users

In an initiative led by the European Space Agency (ESA), representatives from the European Earth observation, weather and climate science communities came together to form a new group, ESSEO (European Scientists on Spectrum for Earth Observation). Chaired by Stephen English from ECMWF, the group ensures the consensus voice of European scientists is heard in discussions about radio frequency spectrum use, in particular at the World Radiocommunication Conference 2027.

ERA5 reanalysis dataset extended

The ERA5 reanalysis dataset was extended to include the period 1940 to 1958. Available from the Climate Data Store of the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), implemented by ECMWF, and the ECMWF Meteorological Archival and Retrieval System (MARS), ERA5 provides detailed information on historical weather and climate. It is the backbone of many C3S products and services and is also being used to train machine-learning models for weather forecasting.

European state of the climate report published

The climate in Europe in 2022 was marked by extreme heat and widespread drought, according to the European State of the Climate report (ESOTC 2022) published by C3S. The report found that Europe experienced a summer that was 0.3–0.4°C warmer than the previous warmest summer, and that high temperatures and a lack of precipitation contributed to significant drought. It also reported that, globally, 2022 was the fifth-warmest year on record, and Greenland’s ice sheet experienced record melt.

OpenIFS users focus on atmospheric composition

Users of OpenIFS – a version of our Integrated Forecasting System for research, education and training – met at Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) in Spain for the 6th user meeting. The focus was on atmospheric composition and its role in numerical weather prediction.

CAMS to contribute to Global Greenhouse Gas Watch

The WMO governing body, the World Meteorological Congress, unanimously approved the new Global Greenhouse Gas Watch (GGGW), to which the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), implemented by ECMWF, would contribute.

Later in the year, CAMS participated in two workshops working towards developing an integrated global observing system to support implementation of the GGGW and understand greenhouse gas cycles.

Ten teams tackle summer coding challenges

Supported by mentors from ECMWF and partner organisations, ten teams began tackling the real-world challenges set in our Code for Earth summer coding programme. They presented their results in September. The programme encourages multidisciplinary collaboration and embraces open-source principles. Since its start, it has produced more than 35 open-source software developments highly beneficial to activities at ECMWF and in our Member and Co-operating States.

Irina Sandu becomes Director of Destination Earth at ECMWF

Irina Sandu became Director of Destination Earth (DestinE) at ECMWF, having previously been the DestinE Science Lead since January 2022. Her appointment followed the retirement of Peter Bauer from the role. DestinE is a flagship initiative of the European Union to develop a digital twin of planet Earth.

Irina Sandu, newly appointed Director of Destination Earth at ECMWF.

Irina Sandu, newly appointed Director of Destination Earth at ECMWF.

Forecasting system upgrade brings increased ensemble resolution

An upgrade of our forecasting system to IFS Cycle 48r1 increased the horizontal resolution of medium-range ensemble forecasts from 18 to 9 km. This led to big improvements in forecasts, for example of the mean sea-level pressure of tropical cyclones. Other major changes included a multi-layer snow scheme that markedly improved the realism of the snow pack in the model and a revised parametrization of microphysical processes that made it possible for the IFS to predict high-impact freezing drizzle events.

10 m wind gusts at 9 km resolution as introduced for ensemble forecasts in June.

10 m wind gusts at 9 km resolution as introduced for ensemble forecasts in June.

Atmospheric rivers observational campaign reviews achievements

Forty collaborators from research, operational, and academic centres came together at our Reading headquarters to discuss the latest research findings from the Atmospheric River Reconnaissance (AR Recon) observational campaign. AR Recon aims to improve the forecast skill of landfalling atmospheric rivers and their impacts in western North America, and the data collected has provided unique opportunities for ECMWF IFS diagnostic studies. The workshop highlighted accomplishments of the campaign so far, and coordinated and inspired future work on data collection, data assimilation, metric development, and impact assessment.

David Lavers, ECMWF, at the Atmospheric River Reconnaissance Workshop in June.

David Lavers, ECMWF, at the Atmospheric River Reconnaissance Workshop in June.

Funding boosts ML activities for numerical weather prediction

A four-year programme to accelerate machine learning activities in numerical weather prediction was approved by the ECMWF Council. The programme will increase resources within ECMWF to broaden the scope of work on machine learning, from intensifying work on a hybrid model combining conventional and ML methodologies, to developing a fully data-driven forecasting system.

Of the £8.365 million programme funding, £1.30 million was allocated to initiate a collaboration between Member and Co-operating States and ECMWF, details of which were approved by the Council in December.

Ensemble forecasting theme of annual user meeting

Our annual user meeting, ‘Using ECMWF’s Forecasts’, enjoyed record attendance in Reading and online and focused on the theme of ensemble forecasting. Presentations covered the use of ensembles in meteorology, hydrology and climatology.

‘User Voice Corner’ at Using ECMWF’s Forecasts meeting in June.

‘User Voice Corner’ at Using ECMWF’s Forecasts meeting in June.

New WMO roles for sub-seasonal predictions

The WMO designated ECMWF as a Global Producing Centre for sub-seasonal predictions (GPC-SSP) and a Lead Centre for sub-seasonal prediction multi-model ensembles (LC-SSPMME). Responsibilities include enhancing the consistency and usability of forecast information, facilitating the exchange of data, and coordinating multi-model ensembles of sub-seasonal forecasts.

Historic end for Aeolus wind mission

After five years of improving weather forecasts, ESA’s Aeolus satellite mission came to an end. Aeolus was the first satellite mission to acquire profiles of our planet’s winds on a global scale, using LiDAR. Its end was also remarkable, with ESA’s mission control using the satellite’s remaining fuel to steer it to Earth’s atmosphere for a safe re-entry. We started assimilating Aeolus wind data operationally in January 2020, soon after launch, after tests demonstrated a positive impact on forecasts.

Intense wildfire activity continues around the globe

Throughout the year, CAMS monitored the wildfire situation around the globe, providing accurate data on wildfire intensity and carbon emissions through its Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAS). Many regions experienced record-breaking wildfire activity in 2023. GFAS data showed wildfire emissions in Canada’s Northwest Territories in August to be significantly higher than the 20-year average.

In the final days of August and the start of September, smoke from the Canadian wildfires was transported across the Atlantic, resulting in hazy skies across the UK and Ireland, and northwestern, central and southern Europe. Meanwhile, Greece experienced the largest wildfire recorded in history in the EU.

European Weather Cloud operational

With both clusters of ECMWF and EUMETSAT’s distributed cloud computing infrastructure installed, the European Weather Cloud became operational. It is a hub for users in our Member and Co-operating States to collaborate and share resources, running applications and services next to where the data is produced and avoiding large data movements over the network.

Machine learning forecasts available from ECMWF charts

Daily forecasts starting from ECMWF initial conditions and using machine learning models from NVIDIA’s FourCastNet, Huawei’s Pangu-Weather and Google DeepMind’s GraphCast became freely available on ECMWF’s public charts pages. Verification charts showed the skill levels of the models for different users and applications in a comparable environment. In December, forecasts from the FuXi model were added. To enhance transparency and reproducibility, we developed a software solution that let the public access the models with a single command, and we provided a plug-in system to allow anyone to install and access the different models.

Annual Seminar spotlights reanalysis science and research

Science and research in Earth system reanalysis was the topic of our 2023 Annual Seminar. We welcomed around 100 scientists and students to our headquarters in Reading for a week of lectures, poster presentations and discussions, with more attendees following on the livestream.

Member States share visions for machine learning

A workshop for the national meteorological services of our Member States evaluated our collective progress in the application of machine learning. Delegates shared their visions for machine learning and progress at their organisations.

Delegates at our Member State workshop on machine learning for numerical weather predictions and climate services, Reading, September.

Delegates at our Member State workshop on machine learning for numerical weather predictions and climate services, Reading, September.

AIFS data-driven forecasting system unveiled

The release of the alpha version of our Artificial Intelligence Forecasting System (AIFS) represented a first step towards our goal of creating a world-leading data-driven ensemble forecasting system. Experimental graphical products from the AIFS were made available to all in our open charts, while Member States could access numerical data for analysis. We developed the end-to-end tooling required to develop deterministic and probabilistic models that could be provided to Member and Co-operating States and serve as a basis for co-development. A new blog space was created to provide regular updates from the team developing the AIFS.

Extract from a forecast for mean sea-level pressure and wind speed from an early, low-resolution version of the AIFS.

Extract from a forecast for mean sea-level pressure and wind speed from an early, low-resolution version of the AIFS.

HPC workshop moves to Bologna

Our biennial workshop on high-performance computing (HPC) in meteorology took place in Bologna, Italy, for the first time. Delegates had the opportunity to visit the ECMWF data centre in addition to joining discussions on the theme of diversifying HPC, in terms of both technology and the research domains using the facilities.

Copernicus Health and Energy Hubs launched

EU Space Week in Seville, Spain, saw the official launch of the Copernicus Health and Energy Hubs, coordinated by CAMS and C3S, respectively. The hubs are two in a series of new Copernicus thematic hubs that will help users in specific domains navigate the wide range of products and information provided by the Copernicus Services.

DestinE phase II confirmed

The second phase of the Destination Earth (DestinE) initiative, to begin in June 2024, was confirmed by the European Union and unanimously endorsed by the Councils of the three implementing entities delivering DestinE: ESA, EUMETSAT and ECMWF. This European endeavour to create a digital twin of Earth will considerably enhance Europe’s ability to respond and adapt to extreme weather and climate change, strengthening its implementation of the green and digital transition.

Council President and Vice-President elected

Penny Endersby (Chief Executive of the UK Met Office) was elected President of the ECMWF Council, to succeed Daniel Gellens, who had held the office since December 2020. Dr Roar Skålin (Director General of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute) was appointed Vice-President.

Newly elected ECMWF Council President Penny Endersby, Chief Executive of the UK Met Office.

Newly elected ECMWF Council President Penny Endersby, Chief Executive of the UK Met Office.

Director for Engagement with the EU appointed

Vincent-Henri Peuch was appointed Director for Engagement with the EU from 1 January 2024, following on from his previous role as Director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS). Laurence Rouil from the French National Institute for Industrial Environment and Risks was appointed to the role of Director of CAMS with effect from 1 February 2024.

Vincent-Henri Peuch was appointed Director for Engagement with the EU.

Vincent-Henri Peuch was appointed Director for Engagement with the EU.

Forecasts provided to SOFF participants

We continued to support the UN Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF) through participation in the advisory board and funding events. At COP28, we announced the provision of ECMWF forecasts to some of the participating countries for use in initialising their higher-resolution regional models. An ECMWF study to estimate the impact of observations that would become available thanks to SOFF was agreed for 2024.

2023 confirmed as hottest year on record

Global temperatures reached exceptionally high levels in 2023. C3S monitored several key climate indicators throughout the year, reporting on record-breaking conditions such as the warmest September on record with the biggest departure from the climate average of any month in any year. In November, daily global temperature averages briefly surpassed pre-industrial levels by more than 2°C.

Unprecedented global temperatures from June onwards led 2023 to become the warmest year in the ERA5 record. Media interest in C3S monthly bulletins was high, and UN Secretary-General António Guterres referred to C3S data for the warmest summer on record in his July press conference on climate.

Monthly global surface air temperature anomalies (°C) relative to 1991–2020 from January 1940 to December 2023, plotted as time series for each year. 2023 is shown with a thick red line while other years are shown with thin lines and shaded according to the decade, from blue (1940s) to brick red (2020s). Data source: ERA5.

Monthly global surface air temperature anomalies (°C) relative to 1991–2020 from January 1940 to December 2023, plotted as time series for each year. 2023 is shown with a thick red line while other years are shown with thin lines and shaded according to the decade, from blue (1940s) to brick red (2020s). Data source: ERA5.