International climate experts gather in Wellington

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Weather and climate experts from around the world are meeting in Wellington next week to discuss the critical need for accurate forecasting to cope with a changing climate.

The world-leading Unified Model is the weather forecasting model of choice for a growing number of countries and agencies. New Zealand is one of the five core members of the global Unified Model Partnership. [Photo: Dave Allen, NIWA]

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) is hosting the meeting at Te Papa on Tuesday where delegates will renew their partnership in the global Unified Model – one of the world’s foremost weather and climate forecasting collaborations.

In its global form the Unified Model can provide information on weather systems around the world and the links between then. Regionally it can provide information on detailed weather and climate impacts at the kilometre scale using world-leading forecasting technology.

NIWA is New Zealand’s contributor to the Unified Model, which is helping communities around the world to reduce the risks of climate change. The collaboration has been in existence for five years. NIWA chief scientist climate Dr Sam Dean says the partnership has been invaluable in forecasting tropical cyclones, fire weather risks, flooding and sea-level storm surges.

“It is increasingly used to underpin transport management, as well as assessing and responding to volcanic eruptions, human health and biosecurity threats,” Dr Dean says.

“NIWA depends on the Unified Model for its forecasting and predictions of New Zealand’s weather and climate and it will be more critical for us in the future as we adapt to a changing climate.”

Dr Dean says the Unified Model provides a platform for collaboration that enables development beyond what would be possible by a single organisation.

Collaboration by the model members – including the UK, Australia, India, Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Poland, the Philippines and the US Airforce – brings together scientific and technical expertise to continually improve a world-leading modelling system.

“NIWA’s comprehensive forecasting system, underpinned by our supercomputer, couples the world’s leading weather forecast model developed by the Unified Model partnership with models developed here,” Dr Dean says.

The installation of a new supercomputer at NIWA last year has enabled the organisation to boost its contribution to the Unified Model by using increased computing capacity to improve its accuracy.

“But this has also been a journey about developing the tools and methods that will our science useful to New Zealanders.”

Delegates will discuss the unprecedented need for accurate weather and climate predications worldwide as the frequency and severity of weather and climate events increases.

NIWA will showcase its new flood forecasting tool, developed after 10 years of research and producing flow forecasts for 66,000 streams and rivers around New Zealand.

The keynote address is being given on Tuesday morning by Jon Petch, head of science partnerships for the UK Met Office.

NOTE FOR MEDIA: Journalists are welcome to attend the workshop

Workshop programme

Further information on the Unified model

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Research subject: ClimateClimate changeWeather