Symposium for Prof. Tim Palmer to take place on 5 and 6 December

Tim Palmer

On 5 and 6 December 2022, ECMWF and the University of Oxford will hold a symposium to celebrate the career of Tim Palmer, whose work has been profoundly linked to ECMWF’s ensemble prediction system. ECMWF is hosting the first day of the symposium at its headquarters in Reading, while the second day will be held at the University of Oxford, where Tim now works.

The event will mark 30 years of ensemble forecasting at ECMWF. Tim was at the forefront of developing the scientific basis for probabilistic forecasting and the implementation of ECMWF’s first operational ensemble predictions in the early 1990s. After leading ECMWF’s Predictability and Diagnostics Section, he became Head of the new Probabilistic Forecasting and Diagnostics Division in 2002.

Tim left ECMWF in 2011 to take up a Royal Society Research Professorship at the University of Oxford’s Physics Department. However, he has worked very closely with ECMWF since then: in the development of low-precision numerics; the use of artificial intelligence in weather forecast models; and the establishment of the EU’s Destination Earth initiative. 

Tim said: “In the 1980s, ECMWF pioneered the development of operational ensemble forecast systems for the medium range, first implemented 30 years ago. Now in the 21st century, ensembles are used for decision-making on all timescales, from short-range prediction to decadal and climate-change timescales. Ensembles also have an essential role in modern data assimilation. I am very happy to have played a part in these developments.”

Model uncertainty diagram

To model uncertainty in the forecasting system, each ensemble member uses a slightly different stochastic realisation of the model as well as a slightly different set of initial conditions.

With Tim now turning 70, the event at ECMWF will look back at his career at the weather centre, reviewing developments in ensemble prediction over the last 30 years and looking to its future.

Presentations will review the history that led to the development of operational ensemble forecasts; the initial perturbation and model uncertainty strategies; the use of ensembles across timescales from weather to climate; and its value for humanitarian disaster risk management and commercial applications in energy markets.

ECMWF’s next upgrade of the operational modelling cycle, planned for next year, will see a unified high-resolution 9 km global ensemble as the centre piece of our medium-range predictions.

The symposium talks will be livestreamed and publicly available. Attendance at the symposium in-person is by invitation only. If you have been invited to attend and would like to participate, please complete the registration form before 28 October 2022.

For more information, see the symposium entry on our event pages.