Climate research: Making weather forecasts mo

Climate Research: Making Weather Forecasts More Accurate and More Effective

image: Dr. Julian Quinting receives an ERC starting grant. (Photo: Amadeus Bramsiepe, KIT)
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Credit: Amadeus Bramsiepe, KIT

Improving weather forecasts and reducing their computational effort to save costs and energy – these are the goals of the ASPIRE project. Meteorologist Dr. Julian Quinting at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) uses recurring signals in the tropical Pacific that have a major influence on atmospheric circulation in Europe. Additionally, he develops machine learning models to mimic the effects of high resolution. For his project, the young scientist is now receiving an initial grant from the European Research Council.

In light of the energy crisis and climate change, the importance of reliable weather forecasts for a time frame between two weeks and two months is increasing. Knowing what the temperatures will be like in four weeks can be crucial when evaluating the heating of a building and filling gas storage tanks. Accurately predicting extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts or floods on the other hand helps the authorities and the public to prepare in time, avoiding or reducing potential damage. Dr. Julian Quinting of KIT’s Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research – Department of Tropospheric Research works on forecasts in that time frame, called sub-seasonal forecasts, in his new project ASPIRE (which means: Advancement of Subseasonal Predictions at Reduced Computational Effort). The European Research Council (ERC) supports the project with an initial grant.

Repetitive Patterns with High Predictability

The excellent young scientist and his future working group aim not only to improve the accuracy of forecasts but also to reduce the computing effort, which would save costs and energy and consequently also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “My underlying idea is to make more use of sources in the atmospheric system with high intrinsic predictability,” Quinting explains. “These sources are, for example, recurring patterns in the atmosphere that vary on the time scale of two weeks to two months.” The meteorologist believes that recurring signals in the tropical Pacific are particularly promising because they have a significant influence on the atmospheric circulation in Europe. These tropical signals, however, are insufficiently represented in numerical weather forecast models and thus prevent the full exploitation of the underlying internal predictability. In ASPIRE, Quinting plans to improve the representation of tropical signals using high spatial resolution in the tropics. However, such a high resolution usually requires more computing power. To avoid this, Quinting and his working group are also developing machine learning models that mimic the effects of high resolution, helping to reduce computing power.

New Options for Weather Services

“With ASPIRE, we want to show the potential of simulations with locally high spatial resolution,” says Quinting. “Ideally, weather services will be able to make even better use of existing computing power.” If the chosen approach proves successful, it could be used for climate research on other components of the atmospheric system that also have high internal predictability but are incorrectly represented in weather forecast models.

ERC Starting Grant 2022

The ERC funds excellent young scientists who want to start an independent career and establish a working group with start-up grants. Each selected project receives up to 1.5 million euros annually for up to five years. In certain circumstances, up to one million euros can be requested additionally, for example for equipment or access to infrastructure. In the 2022 call round, the European Research Council awarded initial grants to 408 scientists based in 26 European countries, 81 of them based in Germany. The ERC start-up grants have a total financial amount of 636 million euros. 2932 applications were entered, resulting in an approval rate of 13.9 percent.

More Information about ERC

More about the KIT Climate and Environment Center

Being “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and provides knowledge for society and the environment. It is the goal to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility and information. For this, approximately 9,800 employees collaborate in a wide range of disciplines in natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics, and the humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 22,300 students for responsible tasks in society, industry and science by offering research-based study programs. Innovative efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity, and the preservation of our natural basis of life. KIT is one of the German universities of excellence.

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