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LSE to help improve international weather forecasting

LSE academics are helping in a major international weather forecasting experiment.

The experiment, called the North Atlantic THORPEX Regional Campaign (TReC), aims to improve the accuracy of forecasts - especially of weather systems that are particularly difficult to track.

The campaign is a European, American and Canadian joint project in which the UK Met Office Exeter will provide the lead operations centre. It will use the numerical weather prediction models of the Met Office, ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts), Météo-France and the American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) to give guidance about 'sensitive areas' where more-specific observations are needed.

A sensitive area is one where weather observations are expected to improve the forecast of a weather system that is particularly uncertain. When there is a consensus about a sensitive area then the European, American and Canadian organisations will focus additional observational equipment on the area - using satellites, civil and research aircraft, civil shipping, radiosondes and drifting buoys. The additional data will then be input into the forecasting models and, it is hoped, improve the forecasts.

Once the experiment, which runs from mid October to mid December, ends, the models will be run again, with the additional data removed, to see if having the extra observations did have a positive impact on the forecast.

LSE's Centre for the Analysis of Time Series (CATS) will provide a connection to a number of weather sensitive sectors of the economy, including energy, transport, and civil defence, raising the profile of expected forecast improvements and their likely socio-economic impact.

Dr Leonard Smith, director of CATS, said: 'This is very exciting. It could prove a significant step towards improving our ability to mitigate weather risk. If we really can identify which additional observations will improve specific forecasts, then there is not only the basic question of interpreting these improved forecasts, but new questions, for example, that of deciding exactly which of the many economically influential aspects of the weather we wish to forecast best.'

The experiment builds on the experience accumulated over the Pacific Ocean where the NOAA developed a similar strategy, the Winter Storm Reconnaissance (WSR) program, which became fully operational in 2002. The European participation in Thorpex is being organised by EUCOS (Eumetnet Composite Observing System) which is the responsibility of the Met Office and involves 18 European national meteorological services.

Jim Caughey, the EUCOS programme manager at the Met Office, said: 'If we find that the models can successfully predict these sensitive areas and that the additional data have a positive impact on the forecast then this work could lead to a new approach to observing and forecasting.'


Contact: Dr Leonard Smith, 020 7955 7626, email: l.smith@lse.ac.uk| or see the CATS website at Centre for the Analysis of Time Series|

Met Office Press Office 01344 856655, or see the Met Office| website. 

For more about the work of CATS, see also LSE Magazine, summer 2003, at http://www.lse.ac.uk/alumni/LSEConnect/LSEMagazine/pdf/summer2003/Summer%2003,%20Weather.pdf|

20 October 2003