The World Weather Open Science Conference, attended by more than 1,000 meteorologists, forecasters, social scientists and application developers from over 50 countries, has laid the foundations to face future challenges. The highly successful conference, held in Montreal from 16 to 21 August, reviewed the rapid progress made in weather science and forecasting over the last decade and investigated the possibilities for further scientific breakthroughs in the years ahead.
“Scientific advancements through research for weather and climate applications have never been so in demand,” said World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “Food security, water, health, disaster risk reduction are among the most basic and fundamental societal needs for sustainable development,” he said.
New sources of atmospheric observations, faster supercomputers and advances in the science together revolutionized weather forecasting in the latter part of the 20th century. On the global scale, we can today predict out to five days ahead as accurately as we could do for three days 20 years ago. This means society has much more advance warning of weather hazards than before, enabling people to prepare and, thereby, limit the loss of lives and property. Expectations are thus high for even greater advances in the years to come.
Conference speakers, panels and the audience investigated the opportunities for achieving major breakthroughs in weather science at the same pace as in the last 20 to 30 years if not faster. Diverse scenarios for the development of weather science and its applications in various fields, focusing often on the prediction of extreme weather hazards, have been proposed.
“The scientific goal of achieving seamless predictions – integrated modeling systems for all time scales, from a few minutes to weeks, months and years ahead – received strong support from participants,” stated Alan Thorpe Conference Co-Chair and Director General of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. He continued, “The integration of weather and climate, involving the science and users, and between nations to observe the atmosphere is an important objective for the next decade.”
The Conference explored the integration of meteorology with hydrology for flood forecasting and with atmospheric chemistry for air quality forecasting. It focused on social sciences and economic impacts of weather in many sectors such as energy, health and insurance. Debates focused on increasing collaboration between government services, academia, the private sector and professional associations on the future of the weather enterprise. They agreed to work together toward, amongst others, producing and sharing novel data, for example, data from mobile phones, new generation satellites, etc., and the improvement of dissemination technologies.
“All these communities working together will play a key role in the advancement and provision of better weather sciences for all world citizens,” noted David Grimes, President of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Society is hugely vulnerable to weather events. Weather science and forecasts help save lives, reduce damage and provide economic opportunities. Early career scientists are eager to move weather forecasting skill forward. They actively took part in the Conference and discussed the possibility of forming an association for early career weather, climate and environment scientists dedicated to working together to develop weather science and its applications.
In his concluding remarks, Michel Beland, Conference Co-Chair and Past President of the WMO Commission for Atmospheric Sciences, stated, “It now seems apparent that over the next 20 years, forecasters are likely to move towards Earth system modeling. Today’s weather forecasts and climate predictions is likely to evolve towards seamless weather-climate-impacts forecasting. Highly sophisticated models will incorporate more and more of the Earth system's components and processes. In addition to the atmosphere and oceans, they will integrate increasingly accurate information on topography, land-use change, vegetation, rivers, lakes, clouds and socio-economic trends to provide user-specific decision-support services that will touch almost every part of our lives.”
The WMO World Weather Research Programme stands ready to play its part, working in partnership with others to ensure the follow-up on the conference. The future evolution of the weather enterprise is now more than ever dependent on international cooperation.