WWRP What we do
Weather prediction has achieved immense progress during the last few decades, driven by research, the availability of an increasingly sophisticated technological infrastructure that incorporates ongoing advances in telecommunications, computational and observational systems, and by the growing expectations of users of weather information. Due to scientific and technological advances, forecast t skill from 3-10 days ahead has been increasing by about one day per decade: Today’s 6-day forecast is as accurate as the 5-day forecast ten years ago. THORPEX significantly contributed towards achieving these forecast advances. So today, high-quality probabilistic 5-7 day forecasts can be issued regularly. Such forecast improvements have led to lives being saved and avoidable damage and economic impacts averted. But much more needs to be done to achieve the full benefits that can be realized from products and services provided by the Weather Enterprise.
In some cases, predictive skill now extends beyond 10 days. This lead time provides an emerging capability to give advance early warning that can help to anticipate and potentially reduce consequences of high-impact weather events. At shorter lead times, more detailed forecasts of the structure and timing of weather-related hazards are becoming increasingly skilful. The concomitant development of ensemble methods now provides improved statements on the probability of occurrence for specific events, a key variable for numerous decision-making systems. Partly because of these advances, user needs have greatly diversified, and now routinely encompass broader environmental prediction products, such as air quality and hydrological predictions.
This progress has been made possible by research advances and technical developments contributed by operational centres, academic partners, providers of surface- and space-based observations and the computing industry. Through international initiatives led by WWRP, such as THORPEX and Research & Development and Forecast Demonstration Projects (see Figure 2), the WWRP in partnership with other international organizations plays a vital role in helping all nations strengthen their research capacity and services to better achieve their development aspirations. WWRP serves as platform for the actions of many players (international organizations, national meteorological services, universities, research centers, donors, civil society) with unique goals that:
• Integrate operational and academic research agendas
• Create a forum with funding institutions and policy makers to improve the relevance of science in the society
• Create a collaborative network that includes both developed and developing countries
• Increase involvement of early career scientists from various disciplines
Ongoing contributions from the World Weather Research Programme, through its working groups and in particular through its major international research and development projects are crucial in fostering the necessary collaborations that accelerate progress by:
• Serving as an international focal point for weather research. WWRP initiates, leads, supports or participates in major international field campaigns and weather research projects that are well suited for international collaboration.
• Leading End-to-End Research and Development Projects (RDPs). The RDPs greatly improve understanding of atmospheric processes and their predictions, focusing especially on high-impact weather.
• Promoting dedicated Forecast Demonstration Projects (FDPs). FDPs encourage the utilization of relevant advances in weather prediction research in an operational setting to facilitate the transfer of research results into operational practise to the benefit of WMO Programmes and Members.
• Initiating and coordinating data archive centres, such as the THORPEX Interactive Grand Global Ensemble (TIGGE). Making data from operational forecast centres easily accessible supports increased use by the public and research community, increases the value of these data for research purposes and strengthens collaboration between the operational and academic communities.
• Promoting international collaboration and exchange of scientific and technical knowledge. This is achieved through conferences, workshops, publications and training and helps to make the latest research advances more accessible and usable, especially for developing countries.
• Advancing the science of the social and economic application of weather related information and services and review and assist in the development and promotion of societal and economic related demonstration projects.
Through its actions, WWRP demonstrates that improvements in weather science and operational predictions can be accelerated through ongoing international cooperation. This in turn allows weather science to provide unique new opportunities to drive sustainable development in countries that are especially vulnerable to weather-related impacts. At a time when weather and climate impacts continue to grow dramatically, it is vital to develop strategies to continue to strengthen the science and technology to build upon advances in weather predictions and services that have been achieved over the past four decades. These strategies must address critical questions that arise on identifying and realizing potential untapped sources of predictability on weekly, monthly and longer time-scales; building seamless capabilities from minutes to months in advance; assess and exploit new observations; and optimal using local and global observations and emerging new capabilities provided by massively-parallel supercomputers. Other critical challenges involve developing improved methods to better communicate forecasts, warnings and related uncertainties predicting weather-related impacts and addressing demands for novel types of weather information that are emerging from the increasing diversity of user needs. Meeting these challenges will increasingly require strong interdisciplinary interactions and collaborations among physical scientists, social scientists and stakeholders.
To further capitalize on past achievements, three core projects have been developed by the WWRP Working Groups and their associated community expertise. These projects will help address the challenges outlined above and are the key components of WWRP research activities for the next decade. The first, the Sub-seasonal to Seasonal Project (S2S) has been developed and run in collaboration with the World Climate Research (WCRP) Programme. The S2S project aims to improve understanding and forecast skill on sub-seasonal to seasonal timescales, and to promote increased use of S2S information into operational centres and the broader applications community. The mission of the Polar Prediction Project (PPP) is to promote cooperative international research to explore the requirements for and evaluate the benefits of enhanced prediction information and services for various stakeholders in Polar Regions. The High-Impact Weather Project (HIWeather) fosters cooperative international research to achieve a dramatic increase in resilience to high-impact weather, worldwide, through improving forecasts for timescales of minutes to two weeks and enhancing their communication and utility in social, economic and environmental applications. All three projects will benefit from the international exchange and cooperation in an interdisciplinary context that has been developed within WWRP building from THROPEX. These projects also provide excellent new opportunity to further promote collaborative research and knowledge exchange across geographical and disciplinary boundaries under the framework of the WWRP. Building for the future most effectively will also require increasing the involvement of early career scientists from diverse disciplines. These efforts will support the development of a new generation of Earth system scientists, allowing the community to benefit from their innovative ideas and expertise. WWRP is committed to building the role of young scientists more strongly into its programme and strategy. In collaboration with WCRP and the Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Programme, the WWRP supports an initiative of young Earth system scientists (YESS). This resulted in a new vision and approach to increasing the role of early career scientist in shaping scientific directions (YESS, 2016). For the decade to come, YESS has identified four major emerging scientific frontiers that will increasingly influence future environmental science and services:
• User frontier: balancing user-driving demands and fundamental research
• Communication frontier: disseminating knowledge
• Scale frontier: seamless environmental prediction
• Human frontier: need for interdisciplinary Earth system science in the Anthropocene.