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Info note No.61

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WMO RESEARCH ADVANCES THE PREDICTION OF WINTER WEATHER THROUGH THE VANCOUVER 2010 OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC GAMES

Geneva, 23 February 2010, Geneva (WMO) - Prediction of winter weather in the mountains is always a challenge for meteorologists since conditions can change rapidly with time and with altitude. The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games are especially demanding with some events requiring minute-by-minute monitoring and prediction of a wide variety of weather variables. An international team of scientists from nine countries assembled by the World Meteorological Organization and Environment Canada, Canada's National Meteorological and Hydrological Service, is conducting a weather research and development project called the Science and Nowcasting of Olympic Weather for Vancouver 2010 or simply SNOW-V10. Nowcasting and very short range prediction are the terms that capture the SNOW-V10 emphasis on forecasting weather conditions up to 6 hours in advance.

SNOW-V10 is part of the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) World Weather Research Programme (WWRP) and is the first WWRP project conducted during the Winter Games. Since the science of winter nowcasting in mountainous terrain is still on immature grounds, SNOW-V10 focuses on nowcasting research and development. In contrast, previous WWRP nowcasting projects at the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games during Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008 already allowed the transition of research advances into operational weather forecasting in support of these Games.

All WWRP projects during Games assemble state-of-the-art research and operational prediction systems from around the world for evaluations and comparisons that complement the operational meteorological assistance generally provided by the local National Meteorological Service. These evaluations begin a month before the start of the Games following a testing phase done at least one year in advance. The findings contribute to the development of advanced numerical weather prediction systems and, in the case of SNOW-V10, improved understanding of the complex interplay between winter weather systems and mountainous terrain. In winter conditions in the mountains, researchers have already noted the benefit of a greater reliance on high resolution (e.g. 1 km or less) numerical weather prediction models and on frequent observational intervals with some sensors reporting every minute. In contrast, during the Summer Games forecasters relied to a greater extent on radar to track and predict storm motion.

Planning has already begun on how to use the research results from SNOW-V10 to improve operational forecasting in support of the Sochi 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. The advances in observational strategies, numerical modeling, and visualization systems resulting from SNOW-V10 will benefit wintertime forecasts for aviation, ground transportation, recreation and other applications, particularly in mountainous regions.

The international team assembled for SNOW-V10 under Environment Canada's Meteorological Service and the WMO includes the Meteorological Services of Austria, Australia, China, and Finland, university teams in Canada, United States, Germany and Switzerland, research laboratories in the United States, Russia and China and several private sector companies.

WMO is the United Nations' authoritative voice on weather, climate and water

Contact information:

At WMO:

Ms Carine Richard-Van Maele, Chief, Communications and Public Affairs, tel: +41 (0) 22 730 8314, e-mail: cpa@wmo.int

Ms Gaëlle Sévenier, Press Officer, Communications and Public Affairs, Tel. +41 (0) 22 730 8417. Email: gsevenier@wmo.int

Website: www.wmo.int

At Environment Canada:

Ms Sheena Carrigan, WMO focal point; Tel :+ 1 819-953-6605, sheena.carrigan@ec.gc.ca

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