25 years of cooperation between the Hungarian Meteorological Service and ECMWF

István Ihász (Hungarian Meteorological Service), Umberto Modigliani (ECMWF)


Twenty-five years ago, on 1 July 1994, the co-operation agreement between Hungary and ECMWF entered into force. Since then, it has proved very beneficial for a wide range of activities, including in terms of the contributions the Hungarian Meteorological Service (OMSZ) has made to several developments at ECMWF.

Lateral boundary conditions

At the end of the 1980s, the use of limited-area models (LAMs) became a key element in operational weather forecasting. At the time, the Swedish grid point LAM was one of the best, and OMSZ acquired it in 1988. Dezső Dévényi headed a small new team focusing on this activity. Having solved several problems, in July 1991 a version of the model with a horizontal resolution of 0.9°x0.9°covering Europe and 12 levels in the vertical became operational at OMSZ. At that time, it was not possible to obtain adequate lateral boundary conditions from the Global Telecommunication System (GTS). There was an obvious solution to this problem: to use ECMWF data as lateral boundary conditions. Among one of his first activities, Iván Mersich, the new president of OMSZ, sent an application by the Hungarian Meteorological Service to join ECMWF as a member. In the event, a co-operation agreement between ECMWF and Hungary was signed in the spring of 1994. Lateral boundary conditions then became available and were used operationally by the LAM model. This development led to significantly improved forecast quality for the rest of the life of this LAM, until 1998.

Hungary was one of the first countries to participate in the ALADIN project led by Météo-France since 1991. In 1998, the ALADIN/HU model became operational at OMSZ, on a new high-performance computing facility. In the first ten years of operations, the model was coupled to the global ARPEGE model. It was then coupled to ECMWF’s deterministic global model, resulting in significant improvements in the quality of the forecasts provided by OMSZ.

ECMWF’s oldest Co-operating State. Hungary was the second country to conclude a co-operation agreement with ECMWF after Iceland, which became a Member State in 2011.

Since 2009, OMSZ has been running the ALADIN model with 11 ensemble members. In 2016, ECMWF started to provide ensemble lateral boundary conditions in the framework of the Boundary Condition (BC) Optional Programme. OMSZ has been using them ever since, thus improving the quality of its probabilistic forecasts.

In the first decade of this century, the AROME non-hydrostatic model was developed in the framework of international cooperation. In 2010, the AROME model was made operational at OMSZ. This non-hydrostatic model provides very useful information, especially on extreme precipitation events in summer.

Ensemble product development

Over the last 25 years, OMSZ has worked with ECMWF in various areas of product development. They include many pioneering activities in the use of ensemble forecasts. Since 2003, ensemble clustering focusing on central European meteorological patterns has been run operationally using resources provided by ECMWF’s ecgate computing cluster. This system makes available the representative ensemble member and the ensemble mean for each cluster to the General Directorate of Water Management. OMSZ has also been able to significantly improve the quality of the ensemble forecasts by means of calibration for variables such as 2-metre temperature, 10-metre wind speed, and precipitation.

Since 2011, OMSZ has developed ensemble vertical profiles. These can support decision-making for precipitation type in winter and for the intensity of convective events in summer. In 2018, ECMWF developed a similar method for the ecCharts visualisation system.

The version of ECMWF’s Integrated Forecasting System introduced operationally in May 2015 (IFS Cycle 41r1) contained precipitation type as a new experimental product. At OMSZ, an ensemble precipitation type diagram was developed in autumn 2015 and this supported forecasters’ decision-making during the winter season. A similar ECMWF product was created in the framework of the EU-funded ANYWHERE project inspired by the bar chart product from  OMSZ, exploiting the probabilistic information provided by ECMWF ensemble forecasts.

Some other aspects

Forecasters and model developers from OMSZ regularly take part in ECMWF’s educational programme (training courses, workshops, seminars). New types of training, such as webinars, eLearning materials and online training, are also very popular at OMSZ. ECMWF software packages, such as ecCodes, Magics, Metview and ecFlow, are widely used at the Hungarian Meteorological Service. Liaison visits and visits of the ECMWF User Support Contact Point are well attended and very much appreciated. OpenIFS has been used for educational purposes at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. Finally, a number of former OMSZ employees are longstanding members of staff at ECMWF. Overall, the relationship between OMSZ and ECMWF has gone from strength to strength and is in excellent shape in this anniversary year.