Saharan dust outbreak as observed by the E-PROFILE network

Saharan dust outbreak as observed by the E-PROFILE network




Click on the image to see the animation showing the dust plume over Europe



Over the weekend a strong outbreak of Saharan dust affected large regions of Europe and lead to number of photos as seen in Figure 1 with red-coloured skies and dramatically decreased visibility. Such conditions were observed by many ALC’s (Automatic lidars and ceilometers) in the E-PROFILE network, as illustrated in Figure 2. The origin of the air is clearly Saharian as indicated by the back-trajectories in Figure 3.

Dense 24/7 networks such as E-PROFILE are an ideal tool to monitor the horizontal, vertical and temporal distribution of aerosols and prove extremely useful to assess the situation in such events. This is illustrated by Figures 4-6 which indicate how the dust plume moved over Europe. It was located over Spain on 05 February before gradually moving towards the North and East during 06 and 07 February. This is a showcase for Saharan dust mixed into the boundary layer, but such a monitoring is possible for any aerosol type at any tropospheric altitude.


Fig.1 Strong limitation in visibility and atmosphere in reddish colours in the Swiss prealps. Picture taken by Alexander Haefele in the afternoon of 06 February 2021.






Fig.2 Attenuated back scatter observed on 06 Feb by the E-PROFILE ALC in Bern, Switzerland, in proximity to the location of the picture in Figure 1. A massive intrusion of Saharan dust reaching the boundary layer in the late morning can be observed.









Fig.3 Back-trajectories arriving in Bern, Switzerland on 06 Feb 12:00 for different altitudes. They clearly indicate the Saharan origin of the airmass. Data from HYSPLIT accessible at








Fig.4 Overview of attenuated backscatter profiles observed on 05 Feb at several central-European stations. The area delimited by the orange line denotes the area where high dust concentrations were observed. Interactive view at:




Fig. 5: Overview of attenuated backscatter profiles observed on 06 Feb at several central-European stations The area delimited by the orange and blue lines denote the area where high dust concentrations were observed during the morning and the afternoon, respectively. Interactive view at:





Fig. 6: Overview of attenuated backscatter profiles observed on 07 Feb at several central-European stations. The area delimited by the orange line denotes the area where high dust concentrations were observed. Interactive view at:



More images of the phenomenon in the Swiss Alps near Grand Saint-Bernard


ECMWF Virtual Science & technology seminar


ECMWF Virtual Science and technology seminar on Aircraft data, Covid-19 and global weather forecasting will take place on Wednesday 20th January 2021.

For further details, please see the link below:

Free webinar by EUMETNET & SESAR Deployment Manager


Free webinar on “New Pan-European Weather Information to Support Aviation” held on 29th October.

To register and for further information please click here


Apple standard weather app & EUMETNET


With its new update to iOS 14, Apple’s standard weather app now attributes EUMETNET and Meteoalarm as its source.

The app uses the Weather Channel, a company owned by IBM, whose weather systems use the Meteoalarm feeds.


Collaborative Forecasting for Aviation in Europe


Once again, this year, Operational Meteorologists at 12 national MET Providers will be taking part in the European Cross Border Weather Advisory procedure for EUROCONTROL Network Manager. The EUMETNET members producing the daily forecast output provides clear, and internationally consistent, information regarding the severity and probability of convective weather across the forecast domain; which has expanded further for 2020 and encompasses some of the busiest routes and sectors in Europe.

The procedure’s primary goal aims to increase EUROCONTROL Network Manager’s (NM) and participating ANSP’s (Airspace Navigation Providers) awareness of potentially significant convection that could disrupt the European Aviation network within the next 12 to 36 hours to support operational decision makers’ effective and efficient management of the network. However, this year, the cross-border weather procedure will also play an important role in ensuring that the recovery from COVID-19 is as delay free as possible. Traditionally weather is one of the major causes of capacity reduction across wide areas of the aviation network, so a collaborative approach to weather management will be vital to ensure its impact is reduced as much as possible as air traffic begins to increase.

Cumulonimbus (CB) clouds are the main meteorological phenomena that this forecast focuses on, primarily as CB clouds can be used as a proxy for possible ‘weather avoidance’. Weather avoidance is the unplanned movement or deviation off the original flight plan requested at short notice by pilots as a result of ‘weather’ ahead. The reason that pilots would want to avoid these cloud types is due to the hazardous conditions associated within them (e.g. severe turbulence, downdraughts, icing and lightning). Multiple avoidance requests will lead to additional workload and complexity for air traffic controllers, who are then unable to safely handle the ‘normal’ amount of traffic, and capacity of the airspace is affected. This ultimately can lead to the implementation of decisions and measures to help mitigate against this by ANSPs.

The service this year has a delayed start of 1 June (due to COVID-19) and will  run until to the end of September 2020.

Example of a forecast

Forecast domain

Working together to minimise the impact of Covid-19


National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS) operate a number of in-situ observing systems in order to feed in-situ data into Numerical Weather Prediction systems. The data produced by what we call the European Composite Observing System (EUCOS) is also used for situational awareness of forecasters (e.g. warning/advisory production, aviation) and climate applications.

EUMETNET’s Observation Programme coordinates EUCOS across all domains that span from research to operations. It also includes a comprehensive performance monitoring tool for the ground-based, shipborne or aircraft-based observing systems operated by the NMHS that form its membership.

The hardest hit by the COVID-19 situation are clearly aircraft-based observations. We have seen a severe drop (-78%) of what are known as AMDAR reports in which reliable and high-quality wind and temperature in-situ data from the atmosphere are produced. When well distributed spatially, AMDARs represent a significant contribution to numerical model performance. The number of AMDAR reports has plunged in proportion to the drop in the number of aircraft that are still flying.

Fig. 1 AMDAR data stats through May 4th 2020.

The COVID-19 situation has also created other shortcomings and increased the risk of other types of data gaps should the situation last. Although most ground-based weather stations or moored buoys are automatic, maintaining them requires engineering e.g. people that can travel on-site regularly and working calibration labs.

Drifting buoys have an average lifespan of 18 months but require people and ships to deploy them regularly. Some older generation ship-borne measuring systems require shipmates to operate them. If less of these ships are plying, less data is produced in the Atlantic and the data sparse Arctic.

Moreover, a lot of the data provided by in-situ systems requires several stages of quality control. If some can be automated, a lot requires manual intervention from staff that may not be able to telework with the same capacities as usual.

EUMETNET Members are coordinating efforts to mitigate some of these risks.

Responding to the reduction in aircraft data, EUMETNET is coordinating an enhanced programme of radiosonde launches across Europe.  Many NMHS have agreed to increase the number of radio-soundings they make each day which has been widely appreciated by global NWP centres. Radiosondes provide very high-quality observations of temperature, wind and humidity as they ascend from the ground to an altitude that can exceed 35km (~115,000 feet). Although relatively few in number compared to the huge quantities of data obtained from meteorological satellites, they are highly complementary and continue to be one of the most valuable sources of weather data.

Another response thread consists of accelerating the expansion to a wider geographical area of a novel system initially funded by the EU’s SESAR programme. The system derives Air Traffic Management aircraft transponder data in order to calculate wind and temperature through ‘big data’ algorithms and bias corrections. Although few aircraft are flying, the volume of processed data is 2 orders of magnitude higher than the traditional AMDAR sensor data.

The sharing of such resources and implementing solutions is at the core of the cooperative spirit that must prevail when facing hard times.


WMO Press release regarding the impact of Covid-19 on observing systems




EUROCONTROL’s Network Manager


The European aviation industry is highly susceptible to the impacts of weather. EUMETNET’s members are coordinating on a collaborative planning forecast for EUROCONTROL’s Network Manager to try and mitigate some of the impacts that convective weather can have on the European Network.

One of the challenges faced by air traffic controllers is that they only have awareness of air traffic in their state, there is no overarching network view of the traffic movements in Europe. The aim of Network Manager is to have a cross border view of the weather and air traffic flows and assist the air traffic organisation in the expanded domain to keep traffic moving, reducing delays and congestion.

Further information can be found on the EUROCONTROL website

ECMWF Webinars


ECMWF is organising a series of seminars given by international experts to explore aspects of the use of machine learning in weather prediction and climate studies. See below for further details:

Seminars to probe potential for machine learning in weather prediction


Supporting SESAR Deployment


EUMETNET Members participate in four SESAR Deployment Implementation Projects and supports the SESAR Deployment Manager.

For further information see the press release and the statement delivered on Twitter: