Current activities

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.








Observations Capability Area




The EUMETNET Observations Capability Area (Obs CA) is responsible for operating and developing the EUMETNET Composite Observing System (EUCOS) which in turn forms a major regional contribution of the WMO Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS). Originally created as an operational network in 2002, EUCOS established a collaborative network across much of Europe with the aim of optimising surface (non-satellite) observations activities to improve the quality and cost effectiveness of Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) at a European scale and to provide a ‘backbone’ observing system to support wider application areas. More specifically EUCOS responded to the need to address the relatively poor coverage of observations over the North Atlantic compared to that over the territory of member National Met Services (NMSs).

EUCOS proved to be a great success, and today the EUMETNET Observations Capability Area is a mature activity, providing a collaborative framework for Member NMSs to address their shared observational needs. The scope of the activities has been expanded as the objectives of the programme have grown to encompass the observing needs for all forecast timescales, from climate to nowcasting, with a particular focus on convective scale, high impact weather.

Observations Capability Area

The Observations Capability Area offers a framework for EUMETNET Member NMSs to collaborate on activities in the field of Observing Systems. It is currently responsible for the operation of six Programmes (E-ABO, E-ASAP, E-GVAP, E-PROFILE, E-SURFMAR and OPERA) which have the primary task of operationally delivering observations of the atmosphere and near surface weather. Collectively they form a substantial proportion of European surface observing capability.

In addition to these operational programmes, the EUMETNET Observations Capability Area also provides;

  • A research and development programme, which aims to progress the design and evolution of EUCOS in order to satisfy a growing need for observations whilst maintaining future costs at an affordable level;
  • A Regional WIGOS Centre (RWC), monitoring observation network performance across a significant portion of WMO Regional Area VI and ensuring corrective actions are taken when required;
  • A framework for collaboration between Members on additional subjects of common interest including for example data quality control, surface instrumentation, crowdsourcing and radiosonde operations;
  • International representation on behalf of Members, to support wider global efforts to enhance the WIGOS, contribute to related European initiatives such as Copernicus and influence international decisions in the interest of EUMETNET Members.

The UK Met Office, working together with the German weather service (Deutscher Wetterdienst), is responsible for the EUMETNET Observations Capability Area. The Programme Manager is Bruce Truscott from the UK Met Office.


The strategic goals


For the new programme phase (2019 – 2023) the programme goals for the EUMETNET Observations Capability Area include two goals from the previous phase (O1, O2), which represent continuity, plus the addition of two new goals (O3, O4) responding to new needs and opportunities.

O1. EUMETNET will further develop a composite observing system for global, regional and increasingly kilometric scale forecasting, acknowledging the growing importance and specific needs of high-resolution models, and for Climate monitoring, building on existing infrastructure and in line with WIGOS principles.

O2. EUMETNET will ensure that observational and climate data gathered by the composite observing system will be of appropriate quality to meet the requirements of Forecasting (including numerical weather prediction) at global but first regional and local scales (short and very short range), Nowcasting (including support to Aviation) and Climate Monitoring, by working with Members to share and implement best practice and methodologies within the system.

O3. By 2025 the collective endeavours conducted under the EUMETNET observation programme will have enabled its Members to provide a cost efficient, world-class, shared observation infrastructure that is significantly more interoperable within its user base as well as with outside stakeholders. Interoperability should be greatly improved not only between the Members (and beyond to RA VI) but also with other stakeholders and user communities. In line with the principles of WIGOS, greater engagement with third party data providers will increase the quantity of data exchanged and made available to members.

O4. Links with third parties shall be reinforced. This covers a wide range of issues including calibration/validation, aviation services, collaboration with non-EUMETNET members & WMO RAVI NMHSs and engagement with third party data provides including the private sector.

Programme Structure & Activities


Figure 1 above illustrates the main component parts of the EUMETNET Observations Capability Area (Obs CA). The original core objective of the EUCOS Programme, to establish and operate an optimized EUMETNET Composite Observing System (EUCOS) remains at the heart of Programme. This is achieved primarily through the:

  • Integrated Observations Programmes: E-ABO, E-ASAP, E-GVAP, E-SURFMAR, E-PROFILE and OPERA running under the umbrella of the Obs CA. Each Programme has defined objectives and priorities that will be the responsibility of the dedicated Programme Managers to deliver, supported by Expert Teams;
  • Territorial Component: collaborative management of selected radiosonde and surface observing stations owned and operated by Member NMSs. Included in this component is operational monitoring of network performance, regional coordination of changes in observing practices and support for remotely located radiosonde stations.

The evolution of the Obs CA continues to be informed by a Research & Development (R&D) Programme and observations quality assured by the EUCOS Quality Monitoring Portal (QMP) and associated network management activities.

Reflecting the future strategic direction of the NMHSs observing strategies, which depend on greater collaboration and engagement with 3rd party communities and the need to exchange more data, the activities of the Obs CA are evolving accordingly. Greater emphasis is being placed on cooperation, regional coordination, representation and outreach.

Cooperation and Coordination: Activities strengthening collaboration on observations across the EUMETNET Membership and with third parties, focussing on facilitating data exchange, implementing improved methods of observing and establishing more active collaborative working on areas of shared interest.

Representation, Outreach and Influencing: Recognising our continued dependence on the wider Global Observing System (GOS), obligations to comply with international policy and the growing number of stakeholders having an interest in observational data, strong international representation will remain essential. This will include engagement within WMO/WIGOS, the EU (through the Copernicus Insitu project and other mechanisms), non-EUMETNET NMHSs and WMO RAVI. 


The objectives


The main objectives of the EUMETNET Observations Capability Area Management Programme are:

  • To design and coordinate the evolution of the surface-based EUMETNET composite observing system (EUCOS) to be optimized on a European scale with a view to improving general forecasting capabilities including Nowcasting, NWP, Aviation Meteorology and Climate Monitoring over Europe without increasing the overall cost, in line with the EUMETNET Strategy defined by the Assembly;
  • To support the evolution of European and national network design through a studies programme;
  • To monitor and control EUCOS performance and thereby also to serve as a Regional WIGOS Centre for Quality Monitoring in RA VI in accordance with a MoU between EUMETNET and WMO;
  • To ensure effective management, including risk management, for the fully integrated programmes E-ABO, E-ASAP, E-GVAP, E-SURFMAR, E-PROFILE and OPERA;
  • To facilitate an effective communication between EUMETNET Members’ data users, the various Observations Capability Area programmes, other EUMETNET programmes such as EUMETFREQ or AutoPollen and the ever-growing number of EUMETNET governing bodies (new: AVAC) and working groups;
  • To support Member State activities to design, coordinate and operate observation networks to support very short range forecasting, including kilometre-scale NWP, facilitating international collaboration (e.g. through the facilitation of information exchange and multi-lateral discussions)
  • To explore and implement new observation data sharing and exchanging mechanisms in order to enhance the discovery and accessibility of all real-time surface-based observation data produced by the NMHS or jointly procured from third parties;
  • To provide representation on observational matters on behalf of and supporting the interests of EUMETNET Members within international fora including those relating to WMO and Copernicus (EU’s Earth Observation Programme).


The organization


The current phase of the Programme started in January 2019 and will last until the end of 2023.
The Coordinating Member is the UK Met Office. The Programme Manager is Bruce Truscott.