On May 15th 2017, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) officially launches the Year of Polar Prediction in Geneva, Switzerland. From mid-2017 to mid-2019, scientists and operational forecasting centers from various different countries will work together to observe, model, and improve forecasts of the Arctic and Antarctic weather and climate systems. This two-year international effort, which aims to close gaps in polar forecasting capacity, will lead to better forecasts of weather and sea-ice conditions to improve future environmental safety at both poles. Improved forecasts in polar regions are also expected to result in better weather prediction at lower latitudes where most people live. The Year of Polar Prediction has been initiated by WMO as a response to rapid polar climate change and related transformation of societal and economic activities at the poles.
Dramatic changes in weather, climate, and ice conditions at the poles are leading to increased human activities such as transportation, tourism, fisheries and natural resource exploitation and extraction in those regions. Therefore, accurate weather and sea-ice information will become increasingly vital in order to reduce risks and improve safety management in polar regions and beyond.
The Arctic and Antarctic are the world’s most poorly observed regions. Lack of data along with limitations of models impact the quality of forecasts across both hemispheres. Advances in polar prediction will lead to improved weather forecasts and climate predictions for polar regions and densely populated countries.
The Year of Polar Prediction includes special observing periods where the number of routine observations will be enhanced, for example by weather balloon launches from meteorological stations and buoy deployments from research vessels to measure atmospheric and oceanographic conditions, respectively. Scientists will intensely observe the Arctic and Antarctic as part of coordinated field campaigns. Coordinated aircraft campaigns, satellite observations, and newly installed automatic weather stations will provide new insights into the processes governing the Arctic and Antarctic climate and their impacts on global weather systems.
The WMO’s Information System will house all of the data collected across the initiative, making it available for operational forecasting centres to feed into their forecasting systems in real-time. Social scientists will then assess how better polar forecasts could affect the outcomes of socio-economic decision-making, while representatives of the transport, shipping, and tourism sectors will provide insight on the practical needs of their communities.
A growing number of international projects, networks, and organisations are involved in the Year of Polar Prediction’s activities, including the EU Horizon 2020 projects Blue-Action and APPLICATE, as well as the EU-funded project SALIENSEAS. Together, the groups hope to enable society to better manage the opportunities and risks arising from polar climate change.