Year of polar prediction

The Year of Polar Prediction (YOPP) was launched on May 15th 2017 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in Geneva, Switzerland. From mid-2017 to mid-2019, scientists and operational forecasting centers from various countries will work together to observe, model, and improve forecasts of the Arctic and Antarctic weather and climate systems.

A concerted international campaign

Twenty-one countries are directly contributing to YOPP to improve predictions of weather, climate and ice conditions in the Arctic and Antarctic. All observational data will be shared via the WMO Information System – allowing operational forecasting centres around the world to receive the data in real time to feed their forecasts.

This will lead to better forecasts of weather and sea-ice conditions to improve future environmental safety at both poles. Improved forecasts in Polar Regions are also expected to result in better weather prediction at lower latitudes where most people live.

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s participation

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is participating in this two-year international effort by implementing the Canadian Arctic Prediction System (CAPS). The new CAPS model has now replaced the previous high resolution prediction system running in Canada’s North (HRDPS-North). What is remarkable about CAPS, and what makes it such a contribution to the international research community, is that this newly implemented system covers the entire Arctic basin at a resolution of 3km. Also of interest to both operational and research communities, is the Regional Ice-Ocean Prediction System (RIOPS) covering the same area. Later this summer, both CAPS and RIOPS are expected to be fully integrated so that weather-ice-ocean predictions are no longer performed independently of each other, so that interactions between each component, ice, ocean and atmosphere are now accounted for. Most prediction centres around the World are moving to these integrated systems, but CAPS is a first to do so for so many forecast points, one every 3km over the entire Arctic. These forecasts will be shared with the international community and with ECCC regional forecasters to evaluate their benefit to Northerners and the increasing commercial activities in the Arctic.

ECCC will also enhance its Arctic observations as a major contribution to YOPP and the resulting studies will help Canada to develop a more cost effective monitoring strategy for the North. Many drifting buoys have already been placed on the ice as far North as off Ellesmere Island to gather surface pressure and temperature. As of February 1st, twice as many weather balloons will be flown from 6 northern and arctic stations, including Eureka and Alert – the furthest north of such stations in the World. This exercise will go on for 5 months in 2018 to examine the benefits of extra atmospheric monitoring for weather and environmental predictions over all of Canada.

Year of Polar Prediction: history

YOPP has been initiated by WMO as a response to rapid polar climate change and related transformation of societal and economic activities at the poles. Dramatic changes in weather, climate, and ice conditions at the poles are leading to increased human activities such as transportation, tourism, fisheries and natural resource exploitation and extraction in those regions. Therefore, accurate weather and sea-ice information will become increasingly vital in order to reduce risks and improve safety management in Polar Regions and beyond. The Arctic and Antarctic are the world’s most poorly observed regions. Lack of data along with the limitations of models at the poles impact the quality of forecasts across both hemispheres. Advances in polar prediction will lead to improved weather forecasts and climate predictions for Polar Regions as well as densely populated countries. YOPP includes Special Observing Periods when the coverage of routine observations will be increased to measure atmospheric and sea surface conditions.

What does this mean for Canada?

YOPP is particularly timely for Canada as close to a third of its land mass is located north of the Arctic Circle. The fast warming of the region allowing for economical exploitation of natural resources, the recent opening of new shipping routes and the increased number of flights over the Arctic, have all contributed to a widespread economic and population growth in Canada’s North. Concurrently, the fast changes in climate are creating new challenges for Indigenous Peoples as their traditional environmental references are also changing. YOPP presents an opportunity for Canada to leverage its assets in the Arctic with the international community and to accelerate the development of reliable and relevant environmental monitoring and prediction systems to better serve the needs of the North and Canada as a whole. Canada’s involvement and leadership will further strengthen its sovereignty over its vast yet potentially resource rich Northern territory.

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