There has been a growing interest in the polar regions in recent years, because of concerns about amplification of anthropogenic climate change. Furthermore, increased economic and transportation activities in polar regions are leading to more demands for sustained and improved availability of integrated observational and predictive weather, climate and water information to support decision-making. However, partly as a result of a strong emphasis of previous international efforts on lower and middle latitudes, many gaps in weather, sub-seasonal and seasonal forecasting in polar regions hamper reliable decision making.
The aim of the WWRP Polar Prediction Project (WWRP-PPP) therefore 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.” This project constitutes the hours to seasonal research component of the emerging WMO Global Integrated Polar Prediction System (GIPPS). A closely related WCRP Polar Climate Predictability Initiative covers GIPPS research on seasonal to decadal time scales.
In order to meet growing demand for skilful and reliable predictions in polar regions and beyond the following eight key research goals were identified:
- Improve the understanding of the requirements for, and evaluate the benefits of, enhanced prediction information and services in polar regions
- Establish and apply verification methods appropriate for polar regions
- Provide guidance on optimizing polar observing systems, and coordinate additional observations to support modelling and verification
- Improve representation of key processes in models of the polar atmosphere, land, ocean and cryosphere
- Develop data assimilation systems that account for the unique characteristics of polar regions
- Develop and exploit ensemble prediction systems with appropriate representation of initial condition and model uncertainty for polar regions
- Determine predictability and identify key sources of forecast errors in polar regions
- Improve knowledge of two-way linkages between polar and lower latitudes, and their implications for global prediction
In order to achieve the above research goals it is advocated to enhance international and interdisciplinary collaboration through the development of strong linkages with related initiatives; strengthen linkages between academia, research institutions and operational forecasting centres; promote interactions and communication between research and stakeholders; and foster education and outreach.
It is emphasized that the expected benefits go beyond the time scales (hours to seasonal) and regions (Arctic and Antarctic) considered in the proposed research project. Anticipated improvements in the representation of key polar processes in (coupled) models such as stable boundary layers and sea ice dynamics are expected to reduce systematic errors in climate model integrations and, hence, help narrow uncertainties of regional climate change projections. Furthermore, improved environmental predictions in the polar regions will lead to more precise predictions for non-polar regions due to the existence of global connectivities. To exploit the full potential of this truly “seamless” area of research, it will be mandatory to maintain and develop close ties with the climate research community and that part of the weather prediction community which has traditionally focussed on the non-polar regions.