High Resolution Numerical Weather Prediction Project
Website of the ALADIN Consortium
First stage training program
Article published on 19 January 2005
last modification on 15 September 2008

by Patricia

 1. Needs

In Europe, the conditions of recruitment of young researchers in numerical weather prediction (NWP) teams vary significantly from one national (hydro)meteorological service (NMS) to another, and even from person to person. New researchers may come from other departments of the NMS (including associated schools for a few institutes), or be recruited at Universities, not necessarily from a faculty teaching meteorology. Several European NWP experts had an initial training in mathematics or theoretical physics for instance. Furthermore the level of recruitment is not uniform, with or without a PhD degree (mostly without), with or without a diploma allowing to start a PhD degree.

Apart from an eventual general training in meteorology, additional training for newcomers is usually required, on the specific basics of NWP, their mathematical background, and also usually informatics. NWP teams are responsible not only for research but also for its efficient application to daily weather forecasts. In most NMS, the same persons are simultaneously in charge of education, development and operational duties, including part of the maintenance of the computing system, the design of products for end-users, administration, etc. This requires knowledge in a wide range of domains.

Up to now, new researchers were trained locally or via initiatives internal to each consortium, such as: annual training courses on Local Model (LM) for the COSMO group; stays abroad, training courses on various topics, and the past ALATNET research training network (contract n° HPRN-CT-1999-00057 of the 5th FP, for the ALADIN group. The success of the above-mentioned initiatives (on average 70/20/55 students from 5/10/15 countries attending the respective training courses) clearly confirm a steady need for training. Coordinated training initiatives were not the rule for the HIRLAM group, but during the latest years some partial steps were taken e.g. within the framework of Baltic HIRLAM (, which also involved partners from Russia, Estonia and Lithuania.
The increased effort which is now required from the different teams, to quickly jump to operational applications at very high resolution, reinforces the need for a transfer of knowledge in every domain, and necessarily between countries because of the spread of expertise over all Europe.
There are sometimes external opportunities, such as seminars arranged by international organisations (e.g. NATO, ECMWF), but attendance is not so easy. As was the case in the past, one cannot rely only on such events.

 2. Experience

By joining their efforts, European NWP scientists managed to build world-class NWP limited-area models, though experts were spread among many small teams. Most of them have also a significant experience in teaching and supervising the work of students or early stage researchers, in their institute or at University, even if only few of these scientists have the corresponding official titles. Cooperation between NMS and Universities often includes also a common research work.
Experience from the last 10 years shows that joint training initiatives of NWP teams can succeed at a small scale, and that stays of PhD students abroad with a shared supervision do foster exchanges of ideas between teams and allow to start durable cooperations. Most of the teams which either are members of the COSMO group or were involved in ALATNET, whatever their group, as full partners or since they sent young researchers, were willing to join STORMNET, so as to continue and enlarge such fruitful cooperations. Independently 9 European teams, representing 18 institutes and universities, recently joined the Nordic Network on Fine-scale Atmospheric Modelling (NetFAM,, funded during 2005-2007 by NordForsk. Close cooperation between the two networks is anticipated, all the more since 4 STORMNET partners (NWS of Finland, Norway, Sweden, France) also belong to NetFAM.

 3. Training steps

The STORMNET training program considers the following 4 levels of training :

  • a) Local training

Local training of early stage researchers (ESR) is organized by their respective host teams.

This includes the familiarization of the ESR with the local working environment, the minimum additional training to allow them starting his research project (depending on background), attendance to internal seminars, and external education, typically in foreign languages.
The attendance at international training courses dedicated to the use of the model(s) running operationally in the host team is included in local training.

  • b) Training by research work

Research training is organized by the host team under the supervision of the network.

The length of most stays proposed to ESR will be between 2 and 3 years, in order to allow them to effectively defend a PhD thesis. Even if this may not be mandatory for all of them, this shall help them in their further career. Based on the experience of past exchanges, 2 types of employment will be proposed, on a case by case basis to better take into account the student’s constraints.
The first one ("full-time") is a quite standard one, where the ESR accomplishes one stay in the host team, roughly 30-36 months long. This is rather simple to manage, and allows to concentrate freely on a research topic.

The second one ("shared-time", not part-time !) has also proven fruitful in the past. The ESR shares research time between home and the host team, typically 6 months long stays in each country. Only stays abroad are supported by the network of course. Work home may be supported by NMS or University grants. This is sometimes better suited to familial and professional constraints. Work is less continuous, but benefits from more intense exchanges of ideas. This may, or not, be combined with "co-tutelle" PhD, for which there is a shared supervision of the research work and the final diploma is delivered by Universities in the home and host countries. The total length of grants would be 18-24 months in such a case.

32 such ESR positions have been identified, with a smooth distribution among the 16 teams : most often 2 per team, 1 for the smallest or less experienced ones, more in the big ones. Three calls should be issued, the first one as soon as possible once the project is accepted, the other ones so as to allow smoothing of the effort all along the 4 years, and overlapping but not too much between stays. Here one has to find a compromise between the need of ESR to share experience and everyday work with other students, and the constraints of the (often small) host teams.
Besides, a few short, 3 months long, grants will be proposed to ESR who cannot go abroad for a long period, allowing transfers of knowledge on a more ad-hoc basis, through work with an expert on a specific research topic.

  • c) Training for research and operations

This is achieved through international training courses organized by the network.

Such training courses will be organized once or twice per year and be typically 1-2 weeks long. They are expected to provide further knowledge on the main scientific or technical domains of interest for NWP. The following topics (historical, emerging or "side" ones) were considered as quite useful: dynamics (mainly non-hydrostatic dynamics), physics (description of moist and subgrid-scale processes), coupling (between models of different spatial resolutions, between NWP and external models, ...), data assimilation (methods, use of observations), numerical techniques (for dynamical adaptation and data assimilation), predictability, data and source code management (portability and optimization issues), downstream applications (e.g. hydrology, pollution, wave-models).

Besides, a few shorter seminars will focus on particular problems of short-range high-resolution NWP, such as modelling over complex orography or very cold regions, and verification/validation methods.
All employed ESR of the network are expected to attend these training courses and seminars, as students, or, where appropriate, as teachers. Besides intensive training, this will give them an opportunity to meet each other and exchange ideas.

All STORMNET partners are expected to send teachers, according to their expertise. Special care will be given to the partition of teachers among the consortia, so that each "school of thought" may be represented and the students are given an objective overview of the present status of research. External experts will also be invited, either from other NWP groups (e.g. working on global models) or from other research domains (e.g. oceanography, hydrology, air pollution).

The training courses will be open widely: to researchers from the involved teams or other weather services, to students working in close domains. Hence the organisation costs will receive care, since this aspect is often the limiting factor for participation.

  • d) Training within the research world

ESR will be given the opportunity to attend general or specialized NWP workshops organized at the European level, in the framework of the SRNWP network or consortia, at least once per year of employment. There, they will meet members from all European NWP teams, learn about the latest developments and problems, and present their own results (in a quite friendly atmosphere).

Attendance to more international workshops may also be possible, on a case by case basis because of the inherent stronger constraints.

The other side of communication, documentation, will also be considered. ESR will be asked to report on their research work every 6 months, in a dedicated newsletter, or, in case of short grants, at the end of their stay. This is an efficient training for the redaction of a PhD thesis, and for further similar tasks, whatever the chosen career afterwards. Publications in international reviews will also be strongly encouraged.

 3. STORMNET as a means to overcome frontiers

Apart from fulfilling a real need for training and transfer of knowledge between teams, STORMNET is strongly expected to help pulling down some historical walls in and around the NWP world. First, sending ESR, with a priori no very strict opinion on most scientific issues, on each side, second, gathering teachers with different backgrounds in common training actions, should ease the establishment of stronger and durable exchanges of ideas and data. The main relationships considered here concern the "academic world", i.e. Universities and pure research institutes, joint departments or external services responsible for environmental applications, computer departments, and, over all, other consortia, i.e. other NWP models and "schools of thought". Hence the following aspects deserve special attention.

  • a) A wider range of scientific domains

As described above, the training courses will enlarge the usual domain of training for NWP, which used to cover only: dynamics and some numerics, physical parameterizations and data assimilation. Even if to a less extent, the first research topics for ESR proposed independently by the different teams show a similar evolution. About half of them concern rather new research domains, such as short-range predictability or the verification of forecasts at high resolution, technical aspects, "horizontal" studies (covering all subjects), and interactions with hydrology or pollution.

Besides, special attention will be paid to advertising on the open positions at each call, so as to draw ESR with different backgrounds, i.e. with initial training not only in meteorology, but also in other earth and atmosphere sciences, or in mathematics, informatics, ...

  • b) The expression of more opinions and a stronger implication of the academic world

The 16 STORMNET partners come from the 4 consortia : 8 from ALADIN (out of 15), 2 from COSMO (out of 5), 5 from HIRLAM (out of 8) and the British team, which achieves a nice balance between the existing models.

Five research and education institutes will cooperate to the training effort (shared supervision of ESR and lectures) as associated partners, going a step beyond their bilateral cooperation with a weather service. These are the University of Zagreb (Andrija Mohorovicic Geophysical Institute, Faculty of Science) in Croatia, the National Scientific Research Centre (Laboratoire d’ Aérologie, Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées) in France, the University College Dublin in Ireland, the Comenius University (Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Informatics, Department of Astronomy, Geophysics and Meteorology) in Slovakia, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (Institute of Geodesy and Photogrammetry) in Switzerland.

Besides, specialists from every "school of thought", i.e. from each consortium, from both applied and pure research, will be invited as teachers for each STORMNET training course or seminar. External experts, from other countries or in other domains, will also be invited whenever suitable.

To end with, the parity between women and men is not fully obtained in the STORMNET coordination group, with 7 women out of 16 scientists. However this aspect was not mentioned in the call for candidacies, so that the present ratio sounds encouraging for the future. Due attention will be given to this issue when appointing ESR.

  • c) An adequate coordination of training actions

Besides the reference "vertical" coordination, with one scientist in charge per partner (or per country), an "horizontal" one will be organized, with :

    • one scientist in charge responsible for training in each domain: supervising the content of corresponding training courses and controlling the progress of the research work of ESR on related issues; she/he will be chosen according to her/his scientific background;
    • one scientist in charge of relationships with each NWP consortium, responsible for its participation to training initiatives, and chosen among the scientists of the corresponding group.
      Plurality of responsibilities will be avoided, unless there is a clear lack of volunteers for some coordination tasks.
  • d) Main differences with past initiatives

The size of the network is far bigger: 16 partners and 4 associated ones, instead of 5 for ALATNET (RTN funded by the 5th FP) and not more than 6 countries sending students to COSMO training courses;
Training courses cover a quite wider range of topics, including technical or "side" ones.

Training (and research) no longer focus on one specific tool (e.g. ALADIN or LM in the examples above), but considers all the European limited-area models equally.

Pure research and education institutes play a more active part.