WMO Launched ‘Year of Polar Prediction’

The United Nations weather agency World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has kicked off of a two-year international effort to close gaps in polar forecasting capacity and to improve future environmental safety at the farthest reaches of the planet.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) launched “Year of Polar Prediction”, which will aim to improve predictions of weather, climate and ice conditions in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Scientists, with the help of data from operational forecasting centres, will observe, model, and improve forecasts of weather and climate systems to learn more about and improve the understanding of the weather changes at the poles.

In light of The Year of Polar Prediction, special observing periods will be added to improve the number of routine observations, for example by weather balloon launches, and buoy deployments from research vessels to measure atmospheric and oceanographic conditions.

Polar Prediction Project:

Supporting international coordinated research efforts in the polar regions that have undergone significant changes in recent years is the goal of the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) Polar Prediction Project (PPP) within the World Weather Research Programm (WWRP).

The mission of the PPP is to “promote cooperative international research enabling development of improved weather and environmental prediction services for the polar regions, on time scales from hours to seasonal”.

Mission of YOPP:

Enable a significant improvement in environmental prediction capabilities for the polar regions and beyond, by coordinating a period of intensive observing, modelling, verification, user-engagement and education activities.

The Year of Polar Prediction (YOPP) is one of the key elements of the Polar Prediction Project. YOPP is scheduled to take place from mid-2017 to mid-2019.

YOPP will:

-cover an extended period of coordinated intensive observational and modelling activities in order to improve polar prediction capabilities on a wide range of time scales in both polar regions.

-strongly engage in forecast-stakeholder interaction, verification and a strong educational component.

-foster relationships with partners, provide common focussed objectives, and be held over a bit more than a one-year period in association with a field campaign providing additional observations.

-coincide with, support, and draw on other related planned activities for polar regions.

-be implemented in three different stages: a preparation phase (2013-2017), YOPP itself (mid-2017 – mid-2019), and a consolidation phase (2019-2022).

YOPP Objectives

The main objectives for YOPP are to:

– improve the polar observing system to provide good coverage of high-quality observations in a cost effective manner.
-gather additional observations through field programmes aimed at improving understanding of polar key processes.
-develop improved representation of polar key processes in uncoupled and coupled models used for prediction, including those which are a particular hindrance to high-quality prediction for the polar regions, such as stable boundary layer representation, surface exchange, and steep orography.
-develop improved data assimilation systems that account for challenges in the polar regions such as sparseness of observational data, steep orography, model error and the importance of coupled processes (e.g., atmosphere-sea ice interaction).
-explore the predictability of sea ice on time scales from days to a season.
improve understanding of linkages between polar regions and lower latitudes and assess skill of models representing these.
-improve verification of polar weather and environmental predictions to obtain quantitative knowledge on model performance, and on the skill of operational forecasting systems for user-relevant parameters; and efficiently monitor progress.
-improve understanding of the benefits of using existing prediction information and services in the polar regions, differentiated across the spectrum of user types and benefit areas.
provide training opportunities to generate a sound knowledge base on polar prediction related issues.


The preparation phase of YOPP covers the period from 2013 to mid-2017 and is characterized by the following key activities: community engagement, coordination with other planned activities, preparatory experimentation, preparation of observational and modelling strategies, development of implementation plan, organisation of summer school and workshops, liaison with funders.

YOPP itself extends over the period from mid-2017 to mid-2019 and comprises periods of intensive observations, dedicated model experiments, research into the use and value of forecasts and intensive verification efforts.

A consolidation phase marks the end of the YOPP decade. Data denial experiments, model development, dedicatedreanalyses, operational implementation and YOPP-specific publications are its main features.

For the implementation of YOPP special emphasis is placed on:

-Development of strong linkages with other initiatives.
-Strengthening of linkages between academia, research institutions and operational forecasting centres.
-Establishment and exploitation of special research data sets that can be used by the wider research community and forecast product users.
-Linkages with space agencies.
-Establishment of a common data archive.
-Promotion of YOPP with funding agencies.
-Promotion of interactions and communication between research and stakeholders.
-Fostering of education and outreach.

Climate change at the Poles:

The effects of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, one of the leading causes of global warming, are felt more intensely in the Polar Region as anywhere else. According to WMO, both the Artic and Antarctica are warming twice as fast as the rest of the world causing melting of glaciers and ice shelves, shrinking sear ice and snow cover.

Polar wildlife ecosystems and indigenous population are already feeling the impact of climate change.

Arctic sea-ice maximum extent after the winter re-freezing period in March was the lowest on record because of a series of ‘heat-waves.’

Antarctic sea ice minimum extent after the most recent Southern Hemisphere summer melt was also the lowest on record.

WMO further predicts that the noticeable changes in weather, climate and ice conditions at the poles are leading to increased human activities such as transportation, tourism, fisheries are and natural resource exploitation and extraction.

Polar and high mountain activities are among WMO’s top strategic priorities because of the growing impact of climate change from greenhouse gas emissions.

The Arctic and Antarctic are currently among the world’s most poorly observed regions. Lack of data along with limitations of models, impact the quality of forecasts while insufficient information about polar weather will also the affect quality of weather forecasts in other parts of the world.

WMO therefore expects that advances in Polar prediction will lead to improved weather forecasts and climate predictions both for Polar Regions as well as densely populated countries in other parts of the world.