Reading to become home to world's largest collection of climate science expertise

Plans to create the world's largest cluster of weather and climate scientists at the University of Reading have been agreed.

It will see the headquarters of the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) move from Shinfield Road to the University's Whiteknights campus.

The Government said it wants the UK be a world-leader in climate research, and it was "proud" to continue hosting the forecasting centre.

The centre will move from Shinfield Road to the University of Reading's Whiteknights campus Credit: Universtiy of Reading

The ECMWF will move into the current home of the Reading School of Art, which will in turn move into a new building elsewhere on campus.

The move places the forecasting centre opposite the University's Department of Meteorology.

That building is also home to parts of the UK Met Office, the National Centre for Atmospheric Sciences and the National Centre for Earth Observation - creating the largest collection of weather, climate research and operational forecasting expertise in the world.

About the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasting

What is it?

According to their website, the ECMWF is an "is an independent intergovernmental organisation supported by 35 states."

It's job is to both to research the climate and also provide 24/7 meteorological data to member states. It employs 390 people in 30 countries - with the majority at its headquarters in Reading.

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Who is involved?

There are 23 members states and 12 co-operating states that support the centre.

It receives around £50 million annually from countries supporting the programme, with further money coming from research funding and the sale of its meteorological data.

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What is a 'medium range' forecast?

In meteorology, the term 'medium range' refers to periods of up to around two weeks ahead.

ECMWF uses advanced computer modelling techniques to analyse observations and predict future weather, processing data from 90 satelite instruments.

The centre says it receives 800 million observations daily, the vast majority from satelites.

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What else does it do?

The centre is home to some of the most powerful super computers in Europe.

It says the devices can operate with a sustained speed of more than 330 trillion floating point operations per second (330 teraflops).

The Centre’s next supercomputer will be made up of four Atos BullSequana XH2000 clusters and is planned to become operational in 2022.

It uses these for a mixture of research by the centre, research by member states and day-to-day operational forecasting.

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The Science Minister, George Freeman MP, said the UK was already "leading in the science of climate mitigation".

The move will be entirely funded by the Department for Business, Enterprise, Innovation and Skills.

"By investing in this crucial cluster, we are using UK science for global good to understand our climate and help us build back better from the pandemic," the Minister said.

The Director General of the ECMWF, Dr Florence Rabier, said it was a "positive move, paving the way for a new headquarters with sustainability at its core."

Professor Robert Van de Noort, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading, said he was "thrilled" at this next stage in an already successful project.

"We will be able to build on this success at a time when a greater scientific understanding of the Earth’s changing weather and its impacts is more important than ever."