The advancement of our ability to predict the weather and climate has been the core aspiration of a global community of scientists and practitioners, in the almost 150 years of international cooperation in meteorology and related Earth system sciences.
The demand for weather and climate forecast information in support of critical decision-making has grown rapidly during the last decade and will increase even faster in the coming years. The generation and provision of these services has been revolutionized by supercomputers, satellite and remote sensing technology, smart mobile devices. A growing share in these innovations has come from the private sector. At the same time progress has been hampered by persisting holes in the basic observing system.
In a new White Paper on the Future of Weather and Climate Forecasting, 30 leading experts from the research, operations and education fields therefore analyse the challenges and opportunities and set directions and recommendations for the future.
“Undoubtedly, the 2020s will bring significant changes to the weather, climate and water community: on the one hand through rapid advancement of science and technology, and on the other hand through a swiftly changing landscape of stakeholders with evolving capabilities and roles,” writes WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.
“Such changes will affect the way weather and climate forecasts are produced and used,” he says.
While National Meteorological and Hydrological Services in all 193 WMO Members are still the public entities designated by governments to provide meteorological and related services, many other providers have entered the weather forecasting business in recent decades, including intergovernmental organizations like ECMWF, private sector companies and academic institutions.
This profound change into multi-stakeholder delivery of weather and climate services is driven by several factors such as: rapidly growing demand for such services from public and private sectors; the open data policy of many public agencies and the technological advancement and affordable solutions for service delivery; and the improved skill of the forecasts, which raises demand and user confidence. As a result, there is now a new era of weather and climate services with many new challenges and opportunities.
In June 2019, WMO launched the Open Consultative Platform (OCP), Partnership and Innovation for the Next Generation of Weather and Climate Intelligence, embracing a community-wide approach with participation of stakeholders from the public and private sectors, as well as academia and civil society. The new White Paper is an output of this consultative platform.
“The White Paper is based on the concept of a weather and climate innovation cycle which is determined to advance prediction services with the aim to improve public safety, quality of life, protect the environment, safeguard economic productivity. This applies across all domains, weather, climate, oceans, hydrology and the land surface, and time span of decisions from minutes and hours, through to weeks, months and even years ahead.” Says Dr Gilbert Brunet, Chair of the WMO Scientific Advisory Panel and lead author and coordinator of the group of prominent scientists and experts worldwide who contributed to the White Paper.
“With appropriate investment in science and technology, and through better PPE, the weather and climate enterprise will meet the increasing stakeholder and customer demands for tailored and seamless weather and climate forecasts. Such improvements will provide significant value to all nations. This paper makes the case that in many ways the PPE will accelerate the desired bridging of the capacity gap in weather and climate service needed for developing countries,” said Dr Brunet.
The White Paper traces the development of the weather enterprise and examines challenges and opportunities in the coming decade. It examines three overarching components of the innovation cycle: infrastructure, research and development, and operation.
1. Infrastructure for forecasting (observational and high-performance ecosystems; advances through public-private engagement)
2. Science and technology driving advancement of numerical prediction (numerical Earth-system and weather-to-climate prediction; high-resolution global ensembles; quality and diversity of models; innovation through artificial intelligence and machine learning; leveraging through public–private engagement.
3. Operational forecasting: from global to local and urban prediction (computational challenges and cloud technology; verification and quality assurance; further automation of post-processing systems and the evolving role of human forecasters; leveraging through public–private engagement).
4. Acquiring value through weather and climate services (user perspective; forecasts for decision support; bridging between high-impact weather and climate services; education and training).
“The decade 2021–2030 will be the decisive period for realization of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Most of these goals have links with the changing environment – climate change, water resources and extreme events,” he said.
“The desired outcomes in all areas require enhanced resilience, which is also the main call of the WMO Vision 2030. The advances expected in weather forecasting and climate prediction during this decade will support those ambitious goals by enabling a next generation of weather and climate services that help people, businesses and governments to better mitigate risks, reduce losses, and materialize opportunities from the new intelligence of highly accurate and reliable forecasts and predictions,” says the concluding chapter of the White Paper.