Destination Earth demonstration products to be ready by mid-2024

Destination Earth observations-simulations image

ECMWF will make sure that the EU’s Destination Earth (DestinE) initiative has completed the first steps in developing highly accurate replicas of Earth to facilitate action on climate change and environmental extremes by mid-2024.

“By that time we expect to have developed demonstration products for the first two digital twins of the Earth system, which will support climate change adaptation policies and decision-making to reduce the impacts of weather-induced extremes,” says Peter Bauer, ECMWF’s Director of Destination Earth.

Contracts to help deliver those two digital twins have been concluded with European organisations. Separate agreements for specific use cases and to ensure the digital twins can rely on sufficient computing power have also been reached.

DestinE has been developed since early 2022 by three pan-European organisations: ESA, which is to develop the core service platform; EUMETSAT, which will create a data lake; and ECMWF, which will set up the first two digital twins. ECMWF will also create a digital twin engine in support of accelerated computing and efficient big data analysis close to European pre-exascale supercomputers.

Destination Earth key dates

Two digital twins

At the core of ECMWF’s activities for DestinE until mid-2024 will be two digital twins. One of these is a digital twin on climate change adaptation to be delivered by Finland’s CSC – IT Center for Science.

CSC will collaborate with 12 partners, including national meteorological services, supercomputing centres and some of Europe’s top climate research institutions. They will provide a configurable climate information system performing multi-decadal global climate simulations at a resolution of five kilometres or less. 

The other digital twin is on weather-induced extremes. It includes a global continuous component to be provided by ECMWF. This will focus on predictions of extremes a few days ahead, building on the Centre’s Integrated Forecasting System (IFS).

This digital twin will also feature an on-demand component to be delivered by Météo-France and partners from 22 European countries. It will rely on short-range predictions with a resolution between 500 and 750 metres, and even 200 metres depending on the situation, as well as extremes-type dependent configurability. These capabilities will initially be limited to Europe.

Digital twin scenario

A possible scenario of the configurable on-demand digital twin for a suspected situation of extreme precipitation with a rapid geographical displacement. Information from a global model forecast ('1') or from an existing large-domain limited-area model ('A') is used for tracking the event in its early stages. This large-scale information is the trigger for defining different successive hyper-resolution, on-demand domains for the forecast of the main development and mature stages along the event's track ('B' and 'C').

The digital twins will also be used to develop particular applications in different domains. “To us that was important as these built-in use cases can interact with Earth system models and have full access to the entire data stream as it is being produced – a capability which does not exist today,” Peter says.

Other use cases

To also support use cases for data users in different fields that mostly operate on Earth system models and observational output data, ECMWF has reached agreements with several European organisations. They are in particular:

  • The Dutch institute for applied research in the field of water and subsurface, Deltares. They will develop a coastal forecasting and climate adaptation tool.
  • The German Aerospace Center (DLR) and its Institute of Networked Energy Systems. They are to provide tools for power system operators seeking accurate, decision-ready data to ensure a reliable, optimised electricity supply to consumers.
  • The German research centre Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ). They will develop an interface for highly accurate, on-demand air quality analyses and forecasts based on machine learning and high-resolution Earth system models.
  • The Belgian organisation VITO for research on sustainable development. They will use the digital twins to provide current and future high-resolution urban heat maps for cities across Europe.
  • The Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI). They will develop an evolution of the Harvester Seasons seasonal forecast app based on the digital twins.

“The idea here is that access to the vast outputs of the digital twins can provide you with better-quality results and user application interactivity in domains that matter for society as represented by these partners,” Peter says.

Supercomputing services

ECMWF has reached an agreement with the Italian computing centre Cineca to facilitate the implementation of the digital twins in the European High-Performance Computing Joint Undertaking (EuroHPC JU).

Leonardo supercomputer

DestinE’s codes will run on the European Union’s partition of the Leonardo supercomputer, hosted by Cineca on behalf of the EuroHPC JU and destined to be one of the most powerful in the world. Credit: Cineca – Leonardo.

The Italian IT Services company Exprivia is to implement innovative visualisation pathways, rendering and immersive technologies, and there is an agreement with the European Technology Platform for High Performance Computing (ETP4HPC) to cooperate on a strategy for specific digital technology to create digital twins and how DestinE can keep up with these developments.

At present, ECMWF and partners are developing a wider communication strategy and access points for updates on the activity, links to individual contributions, procured activities and partnerships also at international level.

Near the end of phase one, the three entities will produce an end-to-end system demonstration across ESA’s core service platform, EUMETSAT’s data lake and ECMWF’s digital twins and the engine.

“The production of the digital twins will remain distributed on different supercomputers, but the output will be made available through EUMETSAT’s data lake and ESA’s service platform,” Peter explains. “This will only be fully implemented after 2024, once we have presented our first demonstration products.”

Cooperation with Copernicus services

ECMWF’s contribution to DestinE comes on top of its existing work for the EU’s Copernicus services, including in particular the fact that it runs the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) and the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S).

“We’ve recruited a lot of staff in a short period of time, who are now well-integrated in different teams in ECMWF,” Peter says. “We have benefited a lot from the Copernicus work already being done by us. We even share staff funding with Copernicus and core ECMWF activities to ensure that there is sufficient coordination between the different activities. This will serve our core mission and these externally funded programmes as cost-effectively as possible.”