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Interview Juan Garcés de Marcilla, Director of Copernicus Services at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts


Mr Garcés de Marcilla, could you tell us a bit about the history of ECMWF, how your organization started and what is your mission? What has been the greatest challenge encountered?

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) is an intergovernmental organisation supported by 34 states. The organisation was established in 1975 when some European nations decided to pool their resources together to tackle the issues surrounding weather and environmental monitoring that were bigger than any of them should or could address individually.

ECMWF is one of the six members of the Co-ordinated Organisations, which also include the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the Council of Europe (CoE), the European Space Agency (ESA), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).

Can you describe briefly the main services which ECMWF provides? And who do you consider are the main customers for these services?

ECMWF is both a research institute and a 24/7 operational service, producing and disseminating numerical weather predictions to its Member and Co-operating States. This data is also fully available to the national meteorological services in these states. The Centre also offers a catalogue of forecast data that can be purchased by businesses worldwide and other commercial customers.

Of course since 2015, ECMWF also provides the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service and its freely available tools and data regarding atmospheric composition and forecasts as well as the Copernicus Climate Change service, which is still in development.

The potential customers for Copernicus services are manifold; we want policy makers and local planners, industry and science communities to all use the tools and data provided to invest with confidence, develop new products and services, as well as adapt and manage our existing infrastructure to ensure resilience.


ECMWF as Entrusted Entity responsible for the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Services (CAMS) and Copernicus Climate Change Services (C3S)

Can you describe what becoming an “Entrusted Entity (EE)” for the Copernicus Services means for your organization?

We are very proud that the European Commission (EC) and the Copernicus Member States have entrusted ECMWF to develop and operate two Copernicus Services on their behalf, CAMS and C3S. We also assist with delivery of a third (the Emergency Management Service) through ECMWF’s flood forecasting capabilities. We see this as proof of a huge amount of trust in – and respect for – what ECMWF does and recognition of our international status and excellent track record in delivering value-for-money environment-related projects and programmes. We also see it as an exciting and challenging opportunity to bring the benefits of the Copernicus programme to society.

ECMWF was founded on the idea that weather is bigger than any one individual country; we are applying the same principle to the Copernicus Services we are implementing – a European approach to developing the products for a global availability.

How much of the work as an EE will be performed by ECMWF and how much outsourced to partners? Are many of your partners coming from the private sector?

ECMWF is responsible for the implementation and management of the services as a whole but specific developments, provision of many service elements, quality assurance and outreach projects require the specialist skills of partners in Europe. The vast majority of work will be contracted out to organisations across Europe including the private sector, meteorological organizations and scientific institutions through open competition.

What plans are there for controlling the quality of the services; provision of reliable, timely and up to date information?

Quality control is extremely important to us and is one of the main pillars of work we have identified for delivering the services successfully. Establishing the Copernicus Services as a worldwide reference is one of our top priorities, as this is instrumental to their success. This requires the implementation of rigorous, independent and scientifically sound quality and evaluation control processes for all services and products. These processes will evaluate the underpinning science, the quality of the service, and how the services address the needs of the users’ communities. We benefitted of course from ECMWF’s successful delivery and the validation of the atmosphere and climate change service pre-cursor project MACC, particularly CAMS which is now operational and receiving around 280 million observations every 12 hours and producing around 14,000 maps every day. We recently upgraded the spatial resolution and doubled number of composition forecasts for the service following months of validation by European experts in atmospheric composition, such as the Dutch Met Service KMNI. Only once we had the findings of their validation report did we go ahead with the enhancement.

You’ll also see from our website that C3S has recently invited tenders for quality control of its products and services, including a quality control function for the Climate Data Store, Essential Climate Variable products from model-based reanalyses and observations respectively, as well as its multi-model seasonal forecast products and the Sectoral Information System.

A Sectoral Information System (SIS) will build on the Climate Data Store (CDS) to deliver services tailored to the needs of particular industrial sectors. Could you tell us more about this approach?

As part of the implementation of the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), ECMWF aims to develop a Sectoral Information System (SIS), which will provide sector-specific shop windows for the C3S Climate Data Store. Several SIS proof-of-concept projects are now under way. They will serve to develop tools and products which will be tested directly with users from sectors to which climate information is particularly relevant.

From these proof-of-concept projects, and based on interactions with users, C3S will select a set of tailored sectoral climate indicators to be routinely produced and visualised. It will support the tools and promote best practices so that these sectors can take advantage of C3S climate information to enhance their businesses. There are seven proof of concept projects, they focus on water, energy, insurance, agriculture and infrastructure and health sectors.

Each of the proofs of concept is run by a consortium of organisations that bring sector-specific expertise to the projects. These are:

  • The Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI): SWICCA (Water) and UrbanSIS (Infrastructure & Health) projects
  • The University of East Anglia: the European Climatic Energy Mixes (ECEM) project (Energy)
  • Telespazio: Agriclass project (Agriculture)
  • CGI: Wind Storm Climate Service (WISC) project (Insurance)
  • Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH): End-to-end Demonstrator for Improved Decision Making in the Water Sector in Europe (EDgE) project (Water)
  • Le Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement (LSCE): Clim4energy project (Energy)

ECMWF will hold in the last quarter of 2016 a workshop dedicated to these ongoing SIS projects. As this event will address the SIS projects scope, progress and schedule, we believe it can be of significant interest to the EARSC community. We regard EARSC entities as potential providers for these projects and at the same time as SIS users, helping the development of further or improved downstream services.

Finally, and beyond the projects mentioned above, it is worth mentioning that other Sectors will be addressed with specific calls to be issued in 2017 and 2018.


Turning to the question of the relationship between the private sector and ECWMF:

Are you satisfied so far with company’s responses to the calls which you have made? If not, do you see measures which you could take to increase this? How could EARSC help you in this respect?

We have some really excellent partners as a result of our calls for tender responses but, naturally, we always want the widest possible spread of companies with the right expertise to choose from. We want to emphasize that ECMWF is fully open to industry and private sector and that we believe that a strong participation of industry and private companies will be of great benefit to the exploitation of the Copernicus CAMS and C3S Services; EARSC’s network therefore could be hugely helpful in promoting our ITTs far and wide. For example, in July we’ll have an Invitation to Tender via the CAMS website for developing use-cases to stimulate innovative ideas and support the development of downstream applications; this would be the perfect opportunity for a bit of EARSC promotional assistance. Further ITTs for elements of the services´ development and operations will be issued in the short, medium and long term. We encourage the private sector to follow closely our ITT calls, as they truly represent opportunities for competitive contributions of the private sector, and offer sustainable business prospects in the long term.

EARSC is seeking to develop a roadmap for co-operation between industry and the 7 EE’s supplying the Copernicus Services. Would ECMWF be ready to support this process and what specifically can you suggest should be covered?

The roadmap for the implementation of the CAMS and C3S Copernicus Services is defined in the Delegation Agreement signed by the EC and ECMWF, and it is under the control of the EU Copernicus Committee of Member States. Having said that, we would be pleased to discuss and support initiatives of cooperation with EARSC. One cooperation workstream could be dedicated to jointly explore how the CAMS and C3S Services can further contribute to the development of downstream services.


Finally, looking to the future;

How do you see the Copernicus Services managed by ECWMF changing over the next few years?

The services will get stronger and stronger. CAMS will consolidate its unique usefulness by adding new products to its portfolio and C3S will enter the first phase of its operational stage by 2018. Our communication and outreach for the services should also become more refined and targetted as we gain more insight in to who our users and potential users are and what needs they want us to address to make the services absolutely indispensable in their working lives.

Juan Garcés de Marcilla is Director of the Copernicus Services operated by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF) on behalf of the European Union. He has overall responsibility for the strategic development and implementation of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) and Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S).
Prior to his appointment at ECMWF, Juan was CEO at Thales Alenia Space, Spain, a company that designs and manufactures on-board systems and equipment for spacecraft. As CEO, Juan was responsible for the company´s strategy, business development, finance and industrial operations. He also acted as Technical Director, CTO, for Eutelsat in Paris, France.
Juan was born in Spain and obtained his University Degree in Engineering at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.