France applies to host top weather forecaster now based in UK

Boats and barges docked in the Port Saint-Sauveur area near the centre of Toulouse, France, on May 28, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (BLOOMBERG) - France applied to host the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), touting its interest in climate and scientific issues and President Emmanuel Macron's commitments to fight climate change.

The centre, one of the world's most accurate predictors of global weather, is currently based in Reading in the UK.

The ECMWF will be relocating some of its teams and their families to European Union territory, and France is proposing to move them to the southern city of Toulouse, the country's Environment Ministry said in a statement on Saturday (May 30).

The move would eventually cover 250 of the centre's scientists and technical staff, as well as their families, according to the ministry.

The forecaster already decided to move its supercomputer centre to Bologna, Italy, where France's Atos SE is building a new system to be operational in 2021.

The ECMWF is currently headed by French meteorologist Florence Rabier, who has worked at local weather office Meteo-France, which has part of its operations in Toulouse.

A move to Toulouse "makes it possible to further improve the forecasts of the ECMWF for the benefit of all the member states and all Europeans," the ministry said.

"France's commitments in the fight against climate change are at the heart of its international action and constitute an essential priority for the president."

Over the past 15 years or so, ECMWF forecasts have tended to be the most accurate, according to verification data by the World Meteorological Organisation.

A final choice between Toulouse and other European sites is expected in December, France said.

The ECMWF is an inter-governmental organisation that is funded by its 22 member states and 12 cooperating states, most of which are in the EU.

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