ECMWF weather data soon open to the public [1st part]

Created in 1975 at the initiative of members of the European Union, the European Center for Medium-Term Meteorological Forecasting is an independent intergovernmental organization with, to date, is located in Reading, England. ECMWF is funded by 22 member states and 12 associated states. It employs nearly 350 people, and its supercomputer equipment is one of the largest in Europe. For about fifteen years, ECMWF forecasts tend to be among the most accurate in the world, according to verification data from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). ECMWF is currently headed by French meteorologist Florence Rabier, who worked at the local Meteorological Office of Météo-France.

But, since the advent of Brexit, the situation has changed. UK no longer part of the EU, ECMWF must move to a European country, and this could generate, for weather data users, rather consequences… positives !

France has applied to host ECMWF, facing several other candidate European cities, by asserting his interest in climate and scientific issues and the commitments of President Emmanuel Macron to fight against climate change. The forecaster will move some of his teams and their families to the territory of the European Union, and France proposes to install them in the city of Toulouse, where Météo-France and Mercator Ocean (¹) are already established. The move would eventually concern 250 people among the scientists and technical staff of the center, as well as their families, according to the ministry.

Already, ECMWF decided to move its supercomputer center to Bologna, and Italy, where the French company Atos SE is building a new center that will be operational in 2021.

A move to Toulouse "would make it possible to further improve ECMWF forecasts for the benefit of all member states and all Europeans", said the ministry. "France's commitments in the fight against climate change are at the heart of its international action and constitute an essential priority for the President".

Le quartier Toulouse Aerospace pourrait accueillir le CEPMMT (image de synthèse)

The Toulouse Aerospace district could host the ECMWF (computer graphics)

The decision should be taken before the end of December this year.. Beyond the consequences for the prestige of France, and more particularly the metropolis of Toulouse, this new establishment in the heart of Europe could accelerate the opening of ECMWF to’Open data, imposed since the signing of the G8 Open Data Charter in July 2013 (²), supplemented by the Digital Agenda (³) published by the European Commission. It can be assumed that the establishment of the weather forecast center in the UK may have hampered the free availability of data to the general public., so high are the royalties demanded until today, specific to a large part of the organization's self-financing. What reduced, de facto, British financial participation in the common edfice.

We can always howl at backbiting. But it is surprising to find that, in a very recent forum by The Parliement Mag dated 20 last september, Umberto Modigliani, deputy director of forecasts of ECMWF, responsible, with the department director, continuous production of forecasts and user relations, announces the opening of the center to open data. Curious coincidence, isn't it ?

To be continued…

(¹) Mercator Ocean International
(²) G8 Open Data Charter
(³) Digital Agenda for Europe

Related articles :
Météo-France GRIB files finally for free
Advocacy for free European data