Scientist to work on fire forecasting products

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Organisation: ECMWF

About the organisation

ECMWF is both a research institute and a 24/7 operational service, producing and disseminating numerical weather predictions to its Member States. ECMWF carries out scientific and technical research directed to the improvement of its forecasts, collects and processes large amounts of observations, and manages a long-term archive of meteorological data. Satellite and in situ observations provide the information for up-to-date global analyses and climate reanalyses of the atmosphere, ocean and land surface.

More details on ECMWF

ECMWF has long recognised the value of high-quality forecasts in mitigating the effects of natural disasters.

Recognising that fires are among the costliest natural disasters in Europe, the European Commission at its Joint Research Centre (JRC) instigated the development of the early warning system to monitor fire danger. Since 2018 ECMWF has been the computational centre for the Copernicus Emergency Management Service, acting at the heart of model calculations and modelling products generation for fire forecasting.

In its daily duties ECMWF provides model outputs to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) and its global equivalent the Global Wildfire Information System (GWIS). Moreover, as part of the ARISTOTLE-ENHSP network, it customises products in support of the expert advice service provided to European Response and Coordination Centre (ERCC) activities.

Summary of the role

Traditional fire weather indices predict conditions that are conducive to unmanageable fire events rather than modelling probability of ignition and spread. The Fire Weather Index that is at the core of the modelling component of the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), only considers weather parameters. This means that non-vegetated areas, where fire cannot occur due to unavailability of fuel (e.g. deserts), can be associated with wrongly high fire danger values. As a workaround, these areas are typically masked out using climatological land-vegetation maps. Establishing the link with the actual fuel availability in these models is regarded as one of most important single improvements to the field by the fire danger modelling community. As opening the way toward the inclusion of these aspects, this position is an exciting opportunity for a motivated individual to work at the forefront of fire forecasting.

The focus of the position will be the development of new products to enlarge the portfolio of what is already available. To this end the post-holder will investigate the availability of newly available remote observation (in terms for example of fuel load, soil moisture, active fires) and model outputs (as for example lightning prediction and atmospheric instability indices) to complement the information provided by classical fire danger indices. The integration of such information into GIS based platforms (e.g. QGis or complaint programming languages) to provide impact-oriented products is also considered a high priority development.

This role calls for a Scientist with a strong background in data analysis and computer science and experience in working in an operational environment. It requires someone with good technical skills and problem-solving capabilities able to adapt to changing priorities as provided by an evolving system.

The post-holder will be expected to:

  • Lead the deployment of new products that fully explore the potential of the availability of both new observations and new weather forecast parameters.
  • Lead the work necessary to generate impact-oriented products for fire forecasting.
  • Collaborate with other scientists to develop products that fully exploit the probabilistic information contained in the ensemble prediction system.
  • Engage with scientists and operators to understand the workflow associated with the forecast production and offer technical solutions related to product generation.
  • Participate in training activities and provide second line of support to the flood and fire forecast systems.
  • This position is assigned to the Diagnostics Section of the Forecast Department. The Scientist will also report to the fire forecast Project Manager for all specific activities related to the development of EFFIS operational products.