«Medium-Range Weather Prediction Austin Woods Medium-Range Weather Prediction The European Approach The story of the European Centre for Medium-Range ...»
As a general principle for the benefit analysis it was assumed that the quality of a six-day forecast would be about the same as the quality of the best of the two-day forecasts then available in Western Europe. Since existing literature on benefits of medium-range forecasting offered little quantitative information, and since an approach using models was not feasible within the time limits given, the group decided to seek the views of people involved in weather sensitive activities.
In all, 156 interviews were held in 15 countries. The interviews covered meteorological requirements for a variety of sectors: agriculture, construction, electricity and gas production and distribution, transport, food merchandizing, water supply and protection against natural disasters. As a first result, it revealed that there was a general interest in medium-range forecasts of 4 to 10 days. The annual gain, mainly to agriculture, construction and transport, from better medium-range forecasts would be 200 million Units of Account (UA). On 1 January 1972, 1 UA = £0.437. The cost of the Centre during the first five years of establishment was estimated to be nearly 20 million UA. During the operational phase the annual cost would reach 7.5 million UA, so that the cost/benefit ratio was about 1 to 25.
The computing cost estimates were based on the assumption that the purchase price would be equivalent to 48 monthly leases. This simplification eliminated the question of purchase or leasing, and allowed specification of an approximate annual cost.
For comparison, the National Meteorological Services of the six countries of the EEC spent 57 million UA in the year 1967/68, and between them employed about 7,900 staff, 1,200 with a university education. In 1970, the 17 potential Member States spent more than 110 million UA on meteorological activities. These figures refer to National Services only; the many university departments and research institutes were in addition to that.
Thus, the analysis confirmed that establishment of the Centre would bring great economic benefits at comparatively little cost.
A decision on the future location of the Centre meant consideration of some economic, technical and social aspects. There were however some technical arguments that favoured it having a central location. The cost of telecommunications would be lower. As the Centre would require an enormous amount of data, it should be located near to the European The Project Study 45 telecommunication centres of the Main Trunk Circuit of the WMO Global Telecommunications System; i.e. within, or near to, the triangle London–Frankfurt–Paris. Another desirable prerequisite for the site of the Centre would be the proximity of a national meteorological centre with operational experience in NWP and a recognized university with interests in the related disciplines of natural science. The opportunity for personal contacts and direct exchange of views would improve the scientific performance of the Centre and result in closer linkage to meteorological practice.
Thus, the Centre should be near a large town with a meteorological centre, a university and good traffic connections.
The study on the European Meteorological Computing Centre came to the following conclusions.
• There was need on practical and scientific grounds for developing operational medium-range forecasting techniques. These techniques would be based on numerical integrations of the meteorological equations demanding computing power far beyond that available at national institutes for short-range numerical predictions.
• The most efficient way of developing and applying these techniques was to create a Centre, devoted primarily to this task.
• The best way to realise such a Centre was the creation of a centralized institute with a staff of about 110 and equipped with outstanding computing facilities. It would be connected to national centres by high-speed data links.
• In addition to its primary task, the Centre would provide an excellent stimulus to research in dynamical meteorology, especially NWP methods for Europe.
• Additional support to the National Meteorological Services would be available through the creation at the Centre of advanced training facilities and a data bank.
• The Centre and its corresponding telecommunication network were expected to become fully operational in its own headquarters five years after a positive ministerial decision had been taken.
• The cost during the first five years would be nearly 20 million UA.
During the operational phase the annual cost would reach 7.5 million UA.
• There would be technical and financial advantages in locating the Centre in an area roughly designated by the triangle London–Frankfurt–Paris.
• The Benefit Analysis study estimated the annual gain, mainly to agriculture, construction and transport, from better medium-range forecasts to be 200 million UA, giving a cost/benefit ratio of better than 1:20.
46 Chapter 4In his memorandum of 26 August 1971 to Dr R. Berger, the Chairman of the Committee of Senior Officials for Scientific and Technical Research, Dr
I enclose herewith the report by the Study Group on a ‘European Centre for Medium-Term Weather Forecasting’ (ECMW) (COST/138/71), with a request that it be considered and be made the subject of a resolution.
In an address in October 1971 in Lisbon, Dr Süssenberger noted:
Whether it will be possible to create the first joint European meteorological institution depends on the decisions of the competent political bodies. The meteorological experts have recommended such an institution in a very cooperative European spirit. Most of our meetings took place in a building named ‘Charlemagne’ located near to Place Schumann, in Brussels.
It is to be hoped that the mentality and the spirit of these two great historic European men stand sponsor when the politicians will take their decision.
Of course also for us meteorologists, the European future will call for certain national renunciations. Without such national renunciations we cannot implement common projects of the order of magnitude described.
But only such projects will put the European meteorological community in a position to take over again in the world the place, which corresponds to its historical achievements.
The conference of Ministers convened by the Council of the European Communities in November 1971 considered the Report of the Study Group.
It formally confirmed their intention to establish the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. This was the first use of what became the Centre’s name.
This is the official name: “Medium-Range” not “Medium-range” and “Forecasts” not “Forecasting”. And it is abbreviated ECMWF not ECMRWF — although a web search for the latter gives a dismayingly large number of responses!
Dr Süssenberger became interim President of the Council pending the coming into force of the Convention, and later served as Council President
from November 1975 until December 1976. After he retired, he recollected:
“my participation in this project was one of the most satisfying tasks in my professional career”.
He was pleased that the far-sighted ideas of Prof Rossby, who in 1951 stated “the organisation of an International Computing Centre appears to have been accepted in principle”, had eventually got the recognition they The Project Study 47 deserved. The government of Germany considered the establishment of the Centre as the best outcome of the studies carried out by the various groups who planned meteorological co-operation at a European level. Only very few of the intended projects could be realised. This one was realised, according to Süssenberger, “thanks to the excellent co-operation between meteorologists, who have for 150 years been used to working together internationally and to solving their problems together”.
Norway decided not to sign the Convention. Iceland was left out by mistake. The states of ‘Eastern Europe’, as we used to call that part of the world, were purposely excluded from membership of the Centre. A single ambiguous word in the Convention seemed to indicate that Italy was a Member State without it having to go to the trouble of, well, becoming a Member State. Drafting, and then finally agreeing on, the necessary legal document to establish an international organisation, even one as small as the Centre, and one restricted to scientific and technical objectives, can be an interesting process.
In November 1971 the Council of Ministers of the EEC decided to establish the Centre. A Convention was required to bring this international organisation into existence.
A first draft of the Convention was considered at a meeting of an ad hoc group on 9-10 December 1971. Thirty-two senior representatives from 14 of the participating states attended. Many further drafts of the Convention and its associated Protocol of privileges and immunities were prepared throughout 1972 and 1973. Credit must be given here to Marie-Annik Martin-Sané, the head of the French delegation to the meetings. She had been heavily involved in drafting the Convention of WMO, and was well known to and respected by the meteorologists for her detailed drafting and negotiating skills. She was instrumental in briefing Bob White, chief of the US Weather Bureau — predecessor of the National Weather Service — and the first Administrator of NOAA, on the status of planning for the Centre.
The Convention set up the Centre as an independent international organisation. Although conceived as a COST action initiated by the EEC, the Centre has only one tenuous formal link with the European Union.
“Instruments of accession” to the Convention, that is the documents confirming that States have become Member States of the Centre, are 48 The Convention 49 “deposited in the archives of the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Communities” [now the European Union, EU].
Fifteen States signed the Convention on 11 October 1973: Belgium, Denmark, Federal Republic of Germany, Spain, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. It was then open for signature until 11 April 1974.
Austria signed on 22 January 1974. Luxembourg and Turkey did not get around to signing. Norway, however, was in a special category of its own making; a firm decision was made in Norway not to sign the Convention.
Actually there was no obligation on a State to sign. For example, during the debate in Dáil Eireann, the Irish parliament, leading to Ireland’s approval of the Convention, the Minister for Science and Technology Mr Ryan noted that the Convention “was signed, so signifying formally Ireland’s participation in the project”. By Article 23 and the Annex, it was enough for a State to have taken part in drafting the Convention to become a Member State.
The Convention, available on www.ecmwf.int, is not written to be an easy read. It is after all a legal document with international ramifications.
However let’s take a little time to look at some interesting or just curious bits; we shall leave the important legal and technical aspects to the important legal and technical experts.
The preamble has a list of eight “Considerings”, outlining the justifications for establishing the Centre:
CONSIDERING the importance for the European economy of a considerable improvement in medium-range weather forecasts;
CONSIDERING that the scientific and technical research carried out for this purpose will provide a valuable stimulus to the development of meteorology in Europe;
CONSIDERING that the improvement of medium-range weather forecasts will contribute to the protection and safety of the population;
CONSIDERING that, to achieve these objectives, resources on a scale exceeding those normally practicable at national level are needed;
CONSIDERING that it appears from the report submitted by the Working Party responsible for preparing a project on the subject that the establishment of an autonomous European centre with international status is the appropriate means to attain these objectives;
CONSIDERING that such a centre could also assist in the post university training of scientists;
50 Chapter 5CONSIDERING that the activities of such a centre will, moreover, make a necessary contribution to certain programmes of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), in particular the world system of the World Weather Watch (WWW) and the Global Atmospheric Research Programme (GARP), undertaken by the World Meteorological Organisation in conjunction with the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU);
CONSIDERING the importance that the establishment of such a centre can have for the development of European industry in the field of data-processing, The last of these expressed a hope that was not fulfilled. Europe was never able to develop “data processing”, that is computing systems, of sufficient power to meet the requirements of the Centre. The Centre’s mainframe computers have all come from the United States or Japan.
Article 1(5) is specific: “The headquarters of the Centre shall be at Shinfield Park near Reading (Berkshire), in the territory of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” This has left the Centre in an odd position. While the Headquarters Agreement with the UK, in its Article 24(3), rather sensibly makes provision for the Centre to leave the UK, the Convention does not. The obvious solution of amending the Convention is, as we shall see later, an extraordinarily difficult and timeconsuming task — don’t think months, think years, perhaps a decade or more. So if the UK had decided it no longer wanted to be a Member State
- however unlikely this may have been — it is not at all clear what the Centre would have done.