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«Medium-Range Weather Prediction Austin Woods Medium-Range Weather Prediction The European Approach The story of the European Centre for Medium-Range ...»

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to develop, and operate on a regular basis, global models and dataassimilation systems for the dynamics, thermodynamics and composition of the earth’s fluid envelope and interacting parts of the Earth-system,

with a view to:

i) preparing forecasts by means of numerical methods;

ii) providing initial conditions for the forecasts; and iii) contributing to monitoring the relevant parts of the Earth-system.

Many other, mostly minor or editorial, changes were included in the recommendation to the Member States. The amendment was recommended unanimously. At the time of writing the amendment was being considered by the Member States for acceptance.

After it comes into force, it can be expected that many, perhaps most, Cooperating States will wish to accede to the Convention, thus becoming Member States. It can be expected also that other States from Eastern Europe will wish to do the same.

Chapter 6

In the United Kingdom

The location of the Centre was considered first in November 1970. A subCommittee of the Expert Group decided to begin an action programme inter alia to carry out a preliminary analysis of the local factors that would be taken into account when determining the site. On 26 January 1971, the subCommittee was already able to state that a prerequisite condition was proximity to a large university, to ensure an exchange of views on scientific developments, and to a National Meteorological Service (NMS), to keep the Centre informed on the practical work of the NMSs. In his covering Memorandum to the “ECMW Project Study” of 5 August 1971, Dr E.

Süssenberger, Chairman of the Working Party on a European Centre for

Medium-Term Weather Forecasting (ECMW), stated:

There are practical reasons for siting the new ECMW within or near the London–Frankfurt–Paris triangle. It has become clear that the only viable solution is for the ECMW to be organized as a central institution with its own large computer.

Senior representatives from 14 of the participating states attended a meeting of an ad-hoc group on 9–10 December 1971. They considered a first draft of the Convention. As well, there was considerable discussion on the criteria that should be applied when deciding on the location of the Centre.

By January 1972, the list of criteria was (almost) finally agreed. In March 1972, the candidate states were invited to let the secretariat know by 15 April of their intention to apply for the Centre to be sited on their territory.

Belgium, Germany and the UK responded, and Italy and the Netherlands asked for more time to consider the matter. On 3 May, the Commission of the European Communities responded with a detailed proposal to have the Centre on the territory of the European Joint Research Centre (JRC) at Ispra, in Lombardy, Italy. On 4 May, Denmark indicated that its government wished to host the Centre.

62 In the United Kingdom 63 The Meteorological Office of the UK had been carrying out operational numerical weather prediction since late 1965. The newly appointed Director-General Dr John Mason had insisted, against the wishes of some of his cautious senior staff, that the results of more than ten years active and productive research in the field be brought into operational use, especially since other European countries had been producing operational numerical forecasts for some years.

In June 1972, Patrick J. Meade, Director of Services of the Meteorological

Office, stated in an internal UK document:

We should go firmly for ECMWF on scientific and technical considerations alone, making it clear in discussion with our European colleagues that the project stands a good chance of failure if Bracknell is not chosen. Looking at the subject nationally, I consider that among all the projects arising — ECMWF, Satellite Ground Station, Centres for GATE, GARP and so on — ECMWF is the prize really worth winning. In the medium and long term the national Centre associated with ECMWF will inevitably develop into a WMC; other national centres will have their scope and research effort restricted as to area of interest and time scale for forecasting. We should firmly relegate the side issues to a trivial level: the Department of Trade and Industry for example want us to include in our paper a note on the benefits to local trade if ECMWF is to be located at or near Bracknell.

A draft paper for Ministers of the UK Government stated:

If the bid fails... the participation of the UK should be small but not discouraging. The Bracknell effort in the field of interest to ECMWF is so extensive and the objectives are of such great potential from the economic standpoint that it would be absurd to transfer any of this effort from Bracknell where adequate support facilities are at hand to a site where no comparable facilities would be available for several years.

Since the value to the UK of forecasts for a week ahead has been estimated at £10 million per annum it would be most unwise to suspend the Bracknell effort or transfer it to unfavourable surroundings for five years or more. If the Bracknell effort is maintained it is possible that the Meteorological Office will be issuing medium-term forecasts before ECMWF could reach an operational stage in another country.

In the event that the bid fails, the UK should be ready to offer facilities at Bracknell for the training of staff, to arrange exchanges of personnel and to make data and techniques freely available... The extent of any direct UK financial contribution should be limited to a token amount.

64 Chapter 6

Accordingly the Meteorological Office recommended to its Government that:

It is sound in principle to establish ECMWF.

In this project the scientific and technical considerations are of overriding importance and point clearly to the Bracknell area as the only sensible location for the Centre.

Appropriate assurances should be given as to the provision of adequate working accommodation at the proposed site in the grounds of the Meteorological Office College at Shinfield Park.

If the UK bid for the Centre fails, the Bracknell effort in the field to be covered by the ECMWF should be maintained and UK participation in ECMWF should be limited accordingly.

On 2 August 1972, the Working Party on the “Questionnaire on the site for the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts” sent a Report to the Committee of COST Senior Officials. The Report contained

an analysis and interpretation of the very detailed and comprehensive information in the proposals for the Centre to be sited in:

• Belgium — in the centre of Brussels;

• Denmark — at Hørsholm, 23 km from Copenhagen;

• Germany — 2 km from Wiesbaden;

• the Netherlands — near Maastricht-Heerlan;

• UK — a site at Reading, 60 km from London;

• land of the Joint Research Centre at Ispra, Italy — this was a proposal of the Commission of the European Communities.

Housing for the staff, education facilities for foreigners, religious worship, climate, communications facilities and other factors were evaluated.

Further representations were made by the various candidate states in the following months.

At the request of the Committee, a Working Group consisting of Jean Labrousse, Daniel Söderman and Mr M. Ulrich of Switzerland visited the various sites in the period 2 to 13 October 1972. They assessed the general and technical criteria that had been adopted for determining the site of the Centre, taking care to stress the subjective nature of their judgements!

• Although the site proposed by Belgium was judged favourably in most respects, the offer was withdrawn later in October.

• The Research Centre at Hørsholm north of Copenhagen was one of the group’s favourite sites. It was close to the Danish Meteorological Institute, which was not one of the biggest NMSs. This was considered In the United Kingdom 65 an advantage as proximity to a large NMS could result in it having too much influence on the new organisation.

• The UK site was situated at Shinfield Park west of the Meteorological Office headquarters at Bracknell, sharing a boundary with the Met Office College; in fact, it formed part of the College grounds. One of the questions the group had asked in advance concerned educational possibilities for the multi-national children of Centre staff. All except the UK emphasised the existence of good multi-national foreign schools. Not having received a fully satisfactory reply from the UK, the question was put again during the visit. The reply from Patrick Meade, along the lines of “how could you envisage not sending your children to the best [British] educational system in the world?” was well remembered even many years later as a somewhat incomplete response.

• A site southwest of Wiesbaden in Germany was, with the Danish site, given a high priority by the group. There was a castle on the site “which could possibly also be used” as well as a “two-storey building, which is presently used as a club by US troops”.

• The Netherlands had a range of possible buildings on the proposed site.

Only one of these was big enough for the permanent needs of the Centre. This building would have to be bought, at high cost, and it would be suitable only if it was split into two units, since its size was greater than that required.

• The territory of JRC at Ispra in Italy was, like the Netherlands site, “far from any team of research workers in the field of numerical forecasting”. Also, it was on land of the EEC. Membership of the Centre was not the same as that of the EEC, so political difficulties could have arisen.

Edward Heath, who had been Prime Minister of the UK since 1970, was committed to increasing Britain’s influence in Europe. Dr Mason visited Downing Street and persuaded Mr Heath of the benefits of having the Centre in the UK. It seems that Mr Heath, a keen amateur sailor with an interest in meteorology, was rather easy to convince! A strong memorandum was sent from the Government of the UK to COST detailing the technical

advantages of having the Centre at Shinfield Park. It went on:

There are also political considerations. Her Majesty’s Government considers that at the time of our entry into the EEC it is particularly important that we should be in a position to be able to announce publicly that an important European scientific institution is being set up in the United Kingdom.

66 Chapter 6

A preliminary poll among the States at the end of November 1972 indicated that support for the UK proposal was strong, with six “first preference” votes and two “second preference” votes. Hørsholm and Wiesbaden had four “first preference” votes and two “second preference” votes each, Ispra had two and one, and Maastricht one and two.

At this stage, Germany decided not to press its bid, preferring to leave the field open for Germany to obtain the European Patent Office (EPO), which was established by a Convention signed, like that of the Centre, in 1973. The EPO was in fact set up in Munich, Germany.

Germany now believed that “the decision is likely to fall between Bracknell and Copenhagen and at the decisive vote... there will probably be only these two alternatives”. After informal discussions with some of the representatives of France, Sweden and Switzerland, Germany contacted Spain and Turkey, who had voted for Germany in the preliminary poll. It informed them that they “were all of the same opinion that it would be best if a smaller country took the seat thus guaranteeing that the Centre maintains its international character... it is better in view of the independence of the Centre if it is established at a place without any large national centre existing”. It asked that they “consider Copenhagen as the most suitable place”.

The 18th meeting of the Senior Officials of the COST Group took place in Brussels on 5–6 March 1973. On a proposal from the Chairman Dr R.

Berger of Germany, which the UK had informally inspired, it was agreed that item 3b “Site for the European Meteorological Centre” should be taken first. The Chairman asked if those candidates whose bids had attracted the least support were in a position to withdraw their bids, as he had suggested at the previous meeting. This was not agreed, and a discussion followed on the voting procedure.

The Chairman asked each candidate to declare first whether or not it would continue to participate in the Centre in the event of its bid being unsuccessful. Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark confirmed continued participation. The UK delegation, however, gave an ambiguous response by stating that this was a hypothetical question; Her Majesty’s Government would make its views known when the draft Convention was complete, including the paragraph stating the location of the Centre. It emphasised that the decision on location was essentially to be based on technical merit. The Danish delegate suggested that if the UK was not prepared to participate in the project in all circumstances, it was perhaps improper for it to participate in the vote. During these exchanges the Italian delegate noted that his government could not commit Italy to participate either, but Italy was prepared to accept the procedure. The Chairman declared a 15-minute break, during In the United Kingdom 67 which he and other delegates appealed to the UK representatives to change their position. However the UK delegation made it clear that it was acting on firm instructions; this was a matter of principle.

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