A scientific year of polar prediction
In an effort to address these gaps in the predictive capacities for the polar regions, in 2013 the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) launched a long-term project to improve forecasting (the Polar Prediction Project). In the context of the project, international researchers from a broad range of fields are working together with the operational forecasting centres. Further, the period from mid-2017 to mid-2019 will mark the official Year of Polar Prediction – which will be characterised by simultaneous measuring campaigns in the Arctic and Antarctic, particularly during the northern and southern summer periods, the goal being to increase the number of observations for various environmental factors, which will in turn help to develop more accurate models, simulations, and weather and sea-ice forecasts. The rationale: creating reliable weather and climate forecasting models means first gathering extensive data on the weather, sea ice, and the conditions at sea and on land. In turn, this data is compared with the calculations that will later serve as the basis for a weather forecast, so as to ensure the models actually deliver dependable prognoses.
The AWI will coordinate radiosonde measurements in the polar regions
The Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven will assume a central role in the Year of Polar Prediction by hosting the International Coordination Office for Polar Prediction, which will direct the planning and organisation of the two-year initiative. For example, in the winter and summer of 2018, arctic research stations and vessels will launch up to four radiosondes a day – instruments that rise up to 35 km with the help of a gas balloon, measuring air temperature and pressure, humidity and a range of further atmospheric parameters as they climb. These measurements, together with the data recorded by automatic weather stations, water and ice buoys, will be simultaneously fed into the Global Telecommunication System (GTS), where researchers and weather centres can use them to develop new weather models and forecasts. Accordingly, the Year of Polar Prediction will do much more than “just” greatly improving weather and climate models for the higher latitudes. After all, no matter whether in the polar regions or in the tropics – reliable forecasts are indispensable wherever people live, work…or travel to see a trumpeting colony of penguins.