From short-range barotropic modelling to extended-range global weather prediction: a 40-year perspective

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Bengtsson, Lennart (2011)

At the end of the 20th century, we can look back on a spectacular development of numerical weather prediction, which has, practically uninterrupted, been going on since the middle of the century. High-resolution predictions for more than a week ahead for any part of the globe are now routinely produced and anyone with an Internet connection can access many of these forecasts for anywhere in the world. Extended predictions for several seasons ahead are also being done — the latest El Niño event in 1997/1998 is an example of such a successful prediction. The great achievement is due to a number of factors including the progress in computational technology and the establishment of global observing systems, combined with a systematic research program with an overall strategy towards building comprehensive prediction systems for climate and weather. In this article, I will discuss the different evolutionary steps in this development and the way new scientific ideas have contributed to efficiently explore the computing power and in using observations from new types of observing systems. Weather prediction is not an exact science due to unavoidable errors in initial data and in the models. To quantify the reliability of a forecast is therefore essential and probably more so the longer the forecasts are. Ensemble prediction is thus a new and important concept in weather and climate prediction, which I believe will become a routine aspect of weather prediction in the future. The limit between weather and climate prediction is becoming more and more diffuse and in the final part of this article I will outline the way I think development may proceed in the future.DOI: 10.1034/j.1600-0889.1999.00003.x
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