A partnership between Singapore and Australia’s met agencies will expand nowcasting capabilities in the Maritime Continent. Meteorological Technology International discovers how.
Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) has joined forces with Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology to lead a multi-year collaboration on weather and climate research in the Maritime Continent – the tropical region between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The project will have a particular focus on Singapore and the wider Southeast Asian and Indo-Pacific regions.
Under the strategic relationship arrangement (SRA), Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS), a division of the NEA, will undertake research in nowcasting (forecasts of one to two hours) using advanced weather radar data, seasonal prediction and the analysis of regional climate projections data. The outcomes of the joint research project will help MSS and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology deliver enhanced forecast and warning services to improve decision making and help guide future climate adaptation plans. Dr Aurel Moise, deputy director of the Department of Climate Research in the Centre for Climate Research Singapore (CCRS) at MSS, reveals more about the innovative work underway.
How did you become involved with the NEA?
My background is in physics [Moise has a master’s from Germany] and atmospheric physics in particular [PhD from Australia]. I previously worked for 15+ years in the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s [the Bureau] research division, mostly on climate and climate change-related topics, with a special focus on monsoons and tropical processes. As such I was heavily involved in the work delivering the 2012 regional climate projections for Australia. It was this work – and my science leadership experience – that led me to apply for my current position as deputy director and head of the Department of Climate Research at CCRS in 2019. The key project under my supervision is Singapore’s Third National Climate Change Study, which we call V3. The project commenced in 2019 and will be delivered at the end of this year. It is CCRS’s flagship project.
Why did MSS choose to partner with the Bureau?
CCRS is closely aligned with the Bureau because Australia and Singapore are exposed to similar climate and weather systems in the tropical Pacific, and both agencies are delivering weather and climate services that require deep understanding of these systems. Furthermore, the Bureau and CCRS are both core partners of the international Unified Model Partnership, which is coordinated by the UK Met Office, another long-time collaborator with MSS. Hence, the ongoing projects under the MSS-Bureau SRA will benefit from a common climate-modeling system and leverage efforts from scientists in countries in the wider United Model Partnership, such as India, New Zealand and South Korea.
Why was the SRA with the Bureau required in the first place?
The Bureau and CCRS/MSS have a long-standing collaboration on research issues with a common interest, such as climate change and tropical weather processes. We have now taken the logical next step in formalizing our engagement through the signing of the SRA, which currently involves two projects that are already underway.
What are the two SRA projects and how will they achieve their objectives?
The two projects in the MSS-Bureau SRA are an evaluation of tropical processes and their relationship to extreme rainfall across Singapore, regional Southeast Asia and the Maritime Continent, and also an enhanced nowcasting system in the tropics.
The first project will conduct an evaluation of the impact of equatorial tropical atmospheric waves on Sumatra squalls and other regional rainfall variability. Additionally, we will conduct an analysis on joint Madden–Julian Oscillation [MJO]/El Niño–Southern Oscillation [ENSO] influence on rainfall over the Maritime Continent, including an analysis of extreme rainfall metrics.
Overall, the joint research collaboration will help MSS/CCRS move toward realizing its vision of becoming a global leading center in tropical climate and weather research focusing on the Southeast Asia region. It will also help the Bureau augment its research capabilities on some of the important climate drivers, such as ENSO, that play a key role in influencing both the Maritime Continent and Australian weather and climate. Both projects are expected to be completed in 2024.
What are the current nowcasting capabilities for the Maritime Continent?
Nowcasting in Singapore is challenging, due to the fact that weather in the region and the Maritime Continent is dominated by highly complex land-air and air-sea interactions at different time and spatial scales. The local weather is dominated by short-lived and locally generated tropical convection. Our evaluation of existing radar-based nowcasting techniques shows limited skill for localized heavy rainfall in the deep tropics. CCRS is addressing these limitations through the development of advanced rainfall nowcasting capabilities, which employ sophisticated physics-informed machine learning algorithms, improved quality control of radar data and improved coverage through additional X-band radars. Through the SRA we will apply the Bureau’s radar signal processing and quality-control systems, and combine various radar data sources in Singapore into a unified set of composite products to support MSS rainfall nowcasts.
What does MSS see as the biggest challenges?
On the science side, the complexity of convective-type weather systems and localized heavy rainfall commonly experienced in Singapore will provide some challenges for the project teams. Administratively, the challenge will be to work in virtual teams across two countries, including accessing supercomputers on both sides. CCRS/MSS’s new supercomputer, Utama, has a graphics processing unit [GPU] capability that will be used for training the machine learning model. It will also be used to process the real-time output as well as a large quantity of historical data for further research.
What technologies and sensors will MSS use?
MSS operates a Leonardo 1600S [S-band] and a Leonardo 735CDP [C-band] radar, complemented by six Furuno WR-2100 and Furuno WR-2120 X-band radars owned by Singapore’s national water agency, PUB. All the radars are Doppler dual-polarized systems with their own strengths and weaknesses. The project aims to use state-of-the art techniques to control quality and combine data from these systems into one composite image. This radar data product will not only benefit future nowcasting systems but can also be used to evaluate the skill of CCRS’s numerical weather prediction output.
What do you hope to achieve?
The ideal outcome of the project will be to successfully incorporate the Bureau’s existing software into the MSS/CCRS data-processing chain to produce high-quality radar composite products with improved coverage. This will further enhance our heavy rainfall nowcasting capability for convective weather systems affecting Singapore and the surrounding region.
Are there any other exciting projects planned?
Beyond the tropical process evaluation and nowcasting projects in the MSS-Bureau SRA, MSS has a number of ambitious projects in the pipeline. First, our weather forecasts are expected to benefit from CCRS’s development of a high-resolution, coupled ocean-atmospheric modeling system to capture important phenomena such as the daily impact of ocean/land temperature on sea breezes, clouds and rainfall.
Second, given Singapore’s complex urban environment, it is important to understand the impact of the urban heat island on local meteorology, which we are exploring through research and development of an ultra-high-resolution city-scale weather/climate modeling system. Both projects will help put CCRS at the forefront of cutting-edge weather research.
On the climate side, Singapore’s Third National Climate Change Study will be delivered at the end of 2023 and provide other agencies in Singapore with climate projections of very high spatial and temporal resolutions so that they can inform their adaptation planning.
This article originally appeared in the April 2023 issue of Meteorological Technology International. To view the magazine in full, click here.