21 December 2016

A new Member State, two major model upgrades, a new ten-year Strategy, two director appointments – 2016 has been rich in developments from which the Centre will benefit for many years to come.

It has also been an excellent year for climate reanalysis, with two major releases, and it has seen a number of exciting scientific and training events at ECMWF. Other developments include a European technology award, a new supercomputer contract and two Fellowship appointments.

New Member State

Croatia officially joined ECMWF on 1 January 2016, bringing the number of Member States to 22. 

Accession to full membership marks the next step for co-operation between ECMWF and Croatia after a formal co-operation agreement was concluded in December 1995.

Croatian flag-raising ceremony, 30 June 2016

On 30 June, representatives from all of ECMWF’s Member States used the occasion of the first Council meeting of 2016 to raise the flag of ECMWF’s newest member, Croatia.

Model upgrades

In March, ECMWF launched a new model cycle, IFS Cycle 41r2, bringing improved global weather forecasts at record-breaking resolution.

The new grid on which the forecasts are run comprises up to 904 million prediction points, three times as many as before.

2-metre temperature forecasts in Norway

Twelve-hour ensemble control forecasts of 2-metre temperature (in °C) for a coastal area in Norway valid at 12 UTC on 7 January 2016. The forecasts were produced using the previous model cycle (41r1 – left) and the new model cycle implemented in March (41r2 – right). The diamonds show observed temperatures. The charts show that spurious cold areas disappeared in the 41r2 forecast thanks to the higher resolution as well as improved radiation physics in the new model cycle.

In November, ECMWF implemented a new version of its forecasting system, IFS Cycle 43r1, which introduced a dynamic sea-ice model and increased the resolution of the ocean model.

Two-week sea-ice cover forecast

Dynamic predictions of sea-ice cover produce very different results from the assumption of static sea-ice cover. This is illustrated by this two-week ensemble forecast from 2 November 2016 (blue lines), which shows a significant evolution from the initial conditions (dashed orange line). Subsequent verification (pink line) shows that the dynamic forecast is much closer to observations than the static sea-ice cover. The spread of the blue lines gives an indication of the range of likely scenarios given inevitable uncertainties in the evolution of atmospheric and ocean conditions.

Supercomputer contract

At the start of the year, ECMWF signed a contract with Cray Inc. to significantly upgrade its supercomputer facility, enabling the Centre to further improve its numerical weather predictions.

As part of the 36-million-dollar deal, ECMWF’s Cray XC30 supercomputers were upgraded and expanded to Cray XC40 systems in June.

New Fellowships

On 1 March, newly appointed ECMWF Fellows Professor Daniel Jacob from Harvard University and Professor Heini Wernli from ETH Zurich started their three-year Fellowships.

ECMWF Fellows Prof Heini Wernli and Prof Daniel Jacob

Professor Wernli (left) and Professor Jacob work in the fields of dynamic meteorology and atmospheric composition, respectively.


In June, a statement on the UK voting to leave the EU said that “we trust that the spirit of collaboration which is the essence of ECMWF will continue notwithstanding the fact that the UK has voted to leave the EU”.

New Strategy

At the end of June, ECMWF’s Council approved a new Strategy, which sets the Centre’s direction of travel until 2025. Then Council President Gerhard Adrian said the decision was “good news for the Centre’s Member and Co-operating States”.

European award

The team in charge of ECMWF’s Meteorological Archival and Retrieval System (MARS) received the European Meteorological Society (EMS) Technology Achievement Award 2016 in the Italian city of Trieste on 13 September.

Manuel Fuentes, EMS President Horst Böttger and Baudouin Raoult

EMS President Horst Böttger presented the certificate to the MARS team’s senior members Manuel Fuentes (left) and Baudouin Raoult (right) during the Society’s Annual Meeting.

Climate reanalysis

In June, a review of global-average air temperature attributed exceptionally high values over the preceding ten months to both natural climatic variability and an underlying trend of global warming.

Later in the summer, ECMWF completed a new, innovative reanalysis of the global climate in the 20th century, CERA-20C.

In November, ECMWF launched its most powerful global climate monitoring tool to date, ERA5.

Animation of temperature January 2016 from ERA5

The animation shows the mean surface air temperature in Europe in January 2016 from ERA5 as it varies hour by hour.

Director appointments

In July, Professor Florian Pappenberger took up the position of Director of Forecasts at ECMWF after ECMWF’s Council approved the appointment.

Florian Pappenberger

Professor Pappenberger previously worked as a Principal Scientist in the Forecast Department.

In December, Dr Andrew Brown was appointed as ECMWF’s next Director of Research after Professor Erland Källén steps down on 31 July 2017.

Andrew Brown

Dr Brown is the Director of Science at the UK Met Office and is, as such, already very well acquainted with ECMWF.

Workshop and training events

In February, 21 meteorologists from across ECMWF’s Member States took part in a new course designed to help them train others in the use of the Centre’s products.

Experts meeting at ECMWF on 2 and 3 March 2016 discussed how best to assess the quality of weather forecasts in the future, including predictions of extreme events.

Verification Workshop at ECMWF March 2016

“Verifying and diagnosing our forecasts is crucial because it drives improvements forward,” ECMWF Director-General Florence Rabier said at the start of the informal Workshop on Verification Measures.

Seventy-eight scientists from 15 countries met at the Centre from 11 to 15 April to discuss how best to deal with uncertainties in the models used in weather and climate forecasting systems.

Supercomputer efficiency was high on the agenda when ECMWF hosted this year’s Cray User Group (CUG) conference in London from 8 to 12 May 2016.

About 100 people met in Reading from 5 to 8 September for one of ECMWF’s flagship events, the four-day Annual Seminar.

Roberto Buizza at ECMWF's Annual Seminar 2016

ECMWF Lead Scientist Roberto Buizza opened the 2016 Annual Seminar, which focussed on the topic of ‘Earth system modelling for seamless prediction’.

Finally, a ground-breaking satellite mission to be launched in late 2017 or early 2018 could herald a step change in the quality of weather forecasts around the globe by providing new wind data, a meeting on tropical modelling held at ECMWF from 7 to 10 November heard.

ESA's ADM-Aeolus satellite

ADM-Aeolus is a polar-orbiting satellite which will circle Earth at an altitude of 320 km. (Image: ESA/ATG Medialab)