Photo: Winfried Hoke/ Alfred Wegener Institute

The Year of Polar Prediction – From Research to Improved Environmental Safety in Polar Regions and Beyond

On May 15th, the Year of Polar Prediction will be officially launched by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). From mid-2017 to mid-2019, scientists and operational forecasting centers from various different countries will jointly undertake intensive observation, modelling, forecast verification and user-engagement activities in the Arctic and Antarctic.

This two-year international effort, which aims to close existing gaps in polar forecasting capacity, will lead to better forecasts of weather and sea-ice conditions to improve future environmental safety at both poles. Improved forecasts in polar regions are also expected to result in better prediction in lower latitudes where most people live. The Year of Polar Prediction has been initiated by WMO as a response to rapid polar climate change and related transformation of societal and economic activities.

Dramatic changes in weather, climate and ice conditions at the poles are currently leading to increased human activities such as transportation, tourism, fisheries and natural resource exploitation and extraction. Therefore, accurate weather and sea-ice information will become increasingly vital in order to reduce risks and improve safety management in polar regions and beyond.

The Arctic and Antarctic are the world’s most poorly observed regions. Lack of data along with limitations of models impacts on the quality of forecasts across wide regions of both hemispheres. It is therefore expected that advances in polar prediction will lead to improved weather forecasts and climate predictions both for polar regions and densely populated countries.

During special observing periods, the number of routine observations, for example through weather balloon launches from meteorological stations and buoy deployments from research vessels, will be enhanced; coordinated aircraft campaigns and satellite snapshots will be carried out; and new automatic weather stations will be installed at different polar locations. In addition, coordinated field campaigns from mid-2017 to mid-2019 will lead to better understanding of critical processes in both polar regions. A growing number of international projects, networks and organizations is involved with activities during the Year of Polar Prediction, including the EU Horizon 2020 projects APPLICATE and Blue-Action, as well as the EU-funded project SALIENSEAS.

All observational data will be shared via the WMO Information System – allowing operational forecasting centres around the world to receive the data in real time to feed their forecasts. In addition, social scientists will look at how polar forecasts can be factored into socio-economic decision making, whilst key stakeholders in transport, shipping and tourism sectors will provide input on the practical needs of the user community.

As an internationally coordinated period of intensive observing, modelling, prediction, verification, user-engagement and education activities which involves various stakeholders, the Year of Polar Prediction contributes to the knowledge base needed to managing the opportunities and risks that come with polar climate change.

MET Norway will play an active part in many areas during YOPP, including launching additional observations and operational weather, ocean and ice forecasting. For instance, MET Norway have at present one of the most sophisticated and detailed numerical weather prediction models dedicated to the Arctic, AROME-Arctic. MET Norway will be involved in model experiments and forecast verification to improve, through research and development on observation usage and physical processes unique to the Arctic, the forecasting capabilities and quality in the European Arctic. MET Norway will also employ its strong knowledge about Arctic weather and processes in the regional office in Tromsø in support of operations during YOPP.

Read about YOPP at met.no