News highlights of 2019

20 December 2019

News highlights 2019

ECMWF news highlights in 2019 include an upgrade of ECMWF’s Integrated Forecasting System that greatly improved forecasts; tests showing the substantial impact of ground-breaking new wind data; a series of events to drive forward numerical weather prediction; and the appointment of a new Director of Copernicus Services.

Better forecasts

On 11 June, ECMWF implemented a substantial upgrade of its Integrated Forecasting System (IFS), which significantly improved global medium-range weather forecasts. One of the key novelties in IFS Cycle 46r1 is that it makes data assimilation more continuous.

Extra observations used in data assimilation

Example of extra observations assimilated in a single data assimilation cycle as a result of changes in ECMWF’s Integrated Forecasting System implemented on 11 June.

Wave forecasts benefited from a new physics package as well as improvements in variables that drive the forecasts, such as near-surface winds.

Wave forecast animation October 2017

This animation shows a simulation of significant wave height (shading, left-hand legend, and length of arrows), mean wave direction (arrows) and mean wave period (colour of arrows, right-hand legend) as ex-hurricane Ophelia approached Ireland, in 1-hour steps on 16 October 2017.

Users were briefed on the changes during this year’s Using ECMWF’s Forecasts meeting (UEF 2019), which took place at the Centre from 3 to 6 June. The annual UEF meetings give ECMWF data users an opportunity to learn about the Centre’s plans, new products and services.

UEF 2019 Speakers' Corner

About 100 external participants attended the UEF 2019 meeting.

Building on the IFS upgrade, the global forecasting system of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) was successfully upgraded on 9 July, making air quality forecasts more accurate and robust. CAMS is implemented by ECMWF on behalf of the EU, and the new operational system is based on IFS Cycle 46r1.

CAMS charts based on system before and after July 2019 upgrade

PM10 concentrations (concentrations of particles less than or equal to 10 μm in diameter, in µg/m3) averaged over March to May 2019 according to the new forecasting system (left) and the old forecasting system (right).

In 2019, ECMWF also increased the amount of weather prediction products it makes available free of charge to Members of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Driving forward weather science

Tests carried out at ECMWF in 2019 have demonstrated that new wind profile observations from ESA's ground-breaking Aeolus satellite significantly improve weather forecasts, particularly in the southern hemisphere and the tropics.

Aeolus in orbit with laser beam

Aeolus can measure winds up to an altitude of about 30 km. (Image: ESA/AOES Medialab)

A hundred scientists from across the world came together at ECMWF from 2 to 5 April to discuss predictability, dynamics and applications research using the TIGGE and S2S ensemble forecast databases.

TIGGE/S2S workshop poster session April 2019

Many of the scientists brought posters along to explain their use of the TIGGE and S2S databases.

Seventy weather observation specialists and modelling experts met at ECMWF from 10 to 13 June to discuss how to maximise the benefits of observational campaigns for weather forecasting and vice versa.

Twenty-five experts set out progress and future prospects for sub-seasonal and seasonal predictions at ECMWF’s Annual Seminar 2019 from 2 to 5 September. This flagship event in ECMWF’s calendar was attended by more than 100 participants from 22 countries.

Andy Brown at the Annual Seminar 2019

ECMWF Director of Research Andy Brown opened the ECMWF Annual Seminar 2019.

Sixty-nine scientists came together at ECMWF from 5 to 7 November 2019 to explore the scope for widening the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in Earth system applications.

Martin Palkovič at the Copernicus AI workshop in Nov 2019

ECMWF Director of Computing Martin Palkovič opened the ‘1st Artificial Intelligence for Copernicus Workshop’ with a talk on ECMWF’s vision for big data, AI and cloud computing.

From 18 to 21 November, about 90 scientists came together at the Centre to discuss the impact of the stratosphere on the weather below, and how we can harness our knowledge of that impact to improve weather forecasts.

More than a hundred modellers and satellite data specialists in the field of hydrology came together at ECMWF from 25 to 28 November to debate new ideas and deepen collaborations.

Poster session at H SAF/HEPEX workshop 2019

The workshop included poster and demonstration sessions as well as 35 talks.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2019, we brought together four ECMWF scientists, two women and two men whose scientific training spans six countries and the period 1981 to 2017, to talk about why there are so few women in science.

Laura Ferranti, Gabriele Arduini, Erik Andersson, Beena Balan Sarojini

From left to right: Laura Ferranti, Gabriele Arduini, Erik Andersson and Beena Balan Sarojini.

State of the climate report and reanalysis

The EU-funded Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) implemented by ECMWF presented the European State of the Climate 2018 report at a top geoscience meeting in Vienna, Austria, on 9 April. Freja Vamborg, the scientist who pulled the report together, noted that one of the most significant events in 2018 was the exceptionally warm and dry spring and summer in central and northern Europe.

Freja Vamborg

Freja Vamborg joined ECMWF in 2017 to work for the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Earlier in the year, C3S released the latest tranche of ERA5 reanalysis data going back to 1979. This innovative dataset will eventually go back all the way to 1950.

2018 Hurricane Florence in ERA5 and ERA-Interim

The ERA5 reanalysis provides a detailed picture of the track, intensity (contours, in hPa) and accumulated rainfall (shading, in mm) associated with Hurricane Florence as it struck the east coast of the US in September 2018 (left). Its predecessor, ERA-Interim, provides a less accurate and less detailed picture as it uses an older model version, fewer observations and a lower spatial and temporal resolution (right).

New air quality data assessed

ECMWF scientist Antje Inness harnesses the power of new satellite instruments to monitor trends in atmospheric composition and air quality. In 2019, one focus of her work has been the TROPOMI instrument carried by the Sentinel-5P satellite launched in October 2017.

Antje Inness

Antje Inness joined ECMWF in the year 2000 to work on satellite observations of water vapour and ozone.

Other Copernicus developments

The ECMWF team who developed the Copernicus Climate Change Service’s Climate Data Store received the European Meteorological Society (EMS) Technology Achievement Award 2019 in Copenhagen on 9 September 2019.

Baudouin Raoult, Bob Riddaway, Cedric Bergeron at EMS 2019

EMS President Bob Riddaway (middle) presented the certificate to Climate Data Store (CDS) senior team members Baudouin Raoult (left) and Cedric Bergeron (right) during the Society’s Annual Meeting.

Jean-Noël Thépaut became ECMWF’s new Director of Copernicus Services on 1 October 2019, when Juan Garces de Marcilla stepped down from the post. Jean-Noël has been a key player in the ECMWF team which has successfully implemented two of the EU’s Copernicus Earth observation services: the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) and the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

Jean-Noël Thépaut

Jean-Noël was previously the Head of the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S).