First World Weather Open Science Conference Pushes for Improved Forecasting Accuracy

wwosc201425 August 2014: The first World Weather Open Science Conference reviewed progress made in weather science and forecasting over the last decade, and investigated possibilities for further scientific breakthroughs in the future. The Conference brought together more than 1,000 meteorologists, forecasters, social scientists and application developers from over 50 countries.

New sources of atmospheric observations, faster supercomputers and advances in the science have revolutionized weather forecasting, and society has more advance warning of weather hazards, enabling people to better prepare and minimize life and property loss. World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Michel Jarraud stated that scientific advancements through research for weather and climate applications have never been so in demand, and that today's five-day forecast is as reliable as the two-day forecast 20 years ago.

The Conference, which took place in Montreal, Canada, from 16-21 August 2014, was co-organized by WMO, the International Council for Science (ICSU), and Environment Canada. Participants explored: the integration of meteorology with hydrology; social sciences and economic impacts of weather in sectors, such as energy, health and insurance; and increasing collaboration between government services, academia, the private sector and professional associations. The Conference focused on highly sophisticated models, which are expected to increasingly incorporate the Earth system's components and processes. In addition to the atmosphere and oceans, they will integrate information on topography, land-use change, vegetation, rivers, lakes, clouds and socioeconomic trends to provide user-specific decision-support services.

Michel Beland, Conference Co-Chair, Past President, WMO Commission for Atmospheric Sciences and Environment Canada, Canada, said meteorologists and climate scientists are developing “seamless weather and climate forecasts” that further blur the boundaries between weather and climate science. Until recently, weather forecasting and climate prediction were treated as separate scientific disciplines, in part because they faced different scientific challenges. However, science has progressed so that traditional boundaries between them are increasingly viewed as artificial.

The meeting also addressed: how to extend forecasts of tropical cyclones and other high-impact weather events beyond two weeks, while improving site-specific accuracy of short-range forecasts; improved observations and computing power to detect and understand broader patterns and cycles in the weather and climate system, such as the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), through advanced models that successfully integrate both atmospheric and ocean dynamics; and increasingly accurate and geographically precise probabilistic forecasts, whereby instead of running a model several times a day, forecasters may use continuously updated prediction systems to produce real-time updates.

In addition, customized forecasting products that integrate science and socioeconomic data could be used to: better manage evacuation procedures during major storms or floods; and guide managers of weather-sensitive systems, such as water supply, sewage, and sea and air transportation. [Conference Website] [WMO Press Release, 12 August 2014] [WMO Press Release, 25 August 2014]