ECMWF supports SOFF to provide more weather observations

Original article here, written by European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), Creative Commons Licence

SOFF (Systematic Observations Financing Facility) countries to receive forecasts from ECMWF are located in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific.

ECMWF supports the UN’s Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF) to widen the provision of weather observations in some countries, notably by agreeing to supply its forecasts to SOFF participants.

The first forecasts based on ECMWF’s global predictions will be made available to three SOFF countries (Madagascar, Senegal and Tanzania) this month.

“Good global forecasts enable good local forecasts, applications and services, which can be used to prepare for extreme events and plan for specific environmental conditions,” says ECMWF Director-General Florence Rabier.

SOFF was approved in 2021 to support a range of countries in generating and exchanging surface-based weather and climate observations. These observations are critical for improved weather forecasts and climate services. They will be made in compliance with the WMO’s Global Basic Observing Network (GBON).

The scheme prioritises support for Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries. It is here where the largest capacity gaps can be found that need to be filled to achieve GBON compliance.

SOFF is a United Nations Multi-Partner Trust Fund (UNMPTF) created by the WMO, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). It includes a range of SOFF beneficiary countries and Peer Advisors. The latter are national meteorological and hydrological services (NHMS) with expertise in advisory services required for SOFF.

ECMWF’s contribution

ECMWF participates in SOFF as a Knowledge partner. As such, it supports SOFF countries by providing free access to weather products and on-demand basic support to use these products.

In particular, as of this month ECMWF is ready to provide 25 SOFF countries with real-time access to relevant geographical areas of its forecasts.

Those countries are: Burkina Faso, Senegal, Cabo Verde, Liberia, Chad, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Rwanda, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Timor-Leste, Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Belize, Grenada and Guyana.

ECMWF will provide four-day forecasts with a grid spacing of 9 km. They can then be used as boundary conditions to initialise higher-resolution limited-area models.

Countries undergo various stages of support from SOFF: during the gap analysis, GBON gaps are assessed and a plan is developed to achieve GBON compliance; in the investment phase, countries receive grants and advisory support to procure, install and/or rehabilitate surface and upper-air stations; and finally, in the compliance phase, countries receive results-based finance and on-demand peer advisory services to support the operation and maintenance of stations internationally sharing data.

Most of the countries are currently carrying out or finalizing the gap analysis in collaboration with the Peer Advisors. Only six countries (South Sudan, Rwanda, Mozambique, the Maldives, Kiribati and Belize) are ready to move to the investment phase.

ECMWF is offering to help in the assessment of the impact of SOFF interventions, too, for instance by monitoring observations before assimilating them into its model. “We can check that the observations are of good quality and we can provide useful feedback to the data providers,” ECMWF’s Fabio Venuti explains.

In addition, ECMWF has proposed a tailored training programme that focuses on enabling SOFF country forecasters to use numerical weather prediction outputs effectively and efficiently.

Finally, ECMWF has offered to investigate the potential impact of additional observations from SOFF countries. For that purpose, it could use techniques honed to assess the potential impact of satellite observations.

COP28 event

SOFF features at the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) in the United Arab Emirates from 30 November to 12 December 2023. An event by ECMWF and SOFF on 4 December 2023 focuses on the importance of closing the observations gap in developing countries for better forecasts.

Two panels, on ‘Innovative finance for better forecasts’ and ‘From better forecasts to better climate action’, are moderated by Markus Repnik, the Director of SOFF, and Florence Rabier, the Director-General of ECMWF, respectively. The event takes place from 13:30 to 14:30 UTC.

Further information

Further information on the SOFF and other COP28 events ECMWF is involved in is available on the ECMWF website and under the SOFF Steering Committee Information Document, outlining this support.

ECMWF has also published a web page giving details of the forecasts made available to SOFF countries.


SOFF at COP28: Increased Recognition, Showcasing Action
5th SOFF Steering Committee Summary
ECMWF supports SOFF to provide more weather observations