Excellence in Italy: the new European Weather Forecast data centre will be built in Bologna
Bologna will host the new ECMWF Data Centre, the news made the city enthusiastic as winning a crucial football match. The selection of Bologna, house of the oldest fully operational University in Europe, became public at the beginning of March.
The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts - ECMWF is an intergovernmental organization, founded in 1975 and supported by 22 member States of the European Union, which aims at developing numerical methods for medium-range weather forecasts, producing medium-range weather predictions to its Member States, carrying out scientific and technical research to improve the above mentioned predictions and collecting weather forecast data into the biggest forecast numerical data archive in the world.
The existing Centre is based in England, in Reading, but this place, as it is structured at the moment, does not present the optimal characteristics to perform the extension works as provided in the 2025 ECMWF strategy. As a matter of fact, the European Weather Forecast Centre aims at a constant improvement of its weather predictions. In order to achieve this objective, the next super computers of the data centre will need to guarantee a calculation capacity 10 times higher than the current one: therefore, in addition to a further development of the technologies and the efficiency used at the moment, the centre will also need additional processors and that implies a significant expansion of the infrastructure, which cannot be carried out in the current site. So, an alternative solution had to be found. The competing European cities that presented a project to house and build the new data centre were seven: Exeter (UK), Slough (UK), Luxembourg, Espoo (Finland), Akureyri (Iceland), Reading (UK), which is the current headquarter of the centre, and Bologna, in Italy.
The Italian government suggested to locate the ECMWF data centre at the Tecnopolo (Technology Park) in Bologna, an area owned by the Region of Emilia-Romagna: a 9.000 square meter area, including the area for the super computers and the office premises at the top floor, would be immediately assigned to the data centre. This space availability may be expanded in the future by further 6.000 square meters, including the possibility to house other connected research activities.
The project implies the construction of a modern and efficient headquarter from an energetic point of view, which will be able to house the ECMWF super computers and the related equipment, with high-level logistic infrastructures, within an innovative scientific environment connected to the competitive, stimulating and fascinating research community of Bologna. Moreover, Bologna is the main Italian research and knowledge hub as far as weather and climate change are concerned: as a matter of fact, this city is the headquarter of the main research institutes and agencies in the weather and climatic sector (CMCC, CNR, ENEA), as well as of the most important European community for climate research and innovation (European Institute of Technology - Climate-Kic). After several months of evaluation of all the proposed projects, visits and inspections by the ECMWF delegation, on March, 1st, the commission finally came to a decision: Bologna will be the headquarter of the new ECMWF Data Centre.
The news has been welcomed with enthusiasm on every institutional level, by the Prime Minister Gentiloni, the Minister of Education Valeria Fedeli ("this is a great success for our scientific community, and a challenge for the future"), the President of the Region Stefano Bonaccini ("an extraordinary achievement for everybody"), the Major of the city Virginio Merola ("Once again, Bologna is proving to be a reference point for our country and for Europe"), and by all the involved organizations and the whole scientific community.
Obviously, we share the same enthusiasm and we will follow with great interest the progress of this project and the construction of the new Tecnopolo, which will give stimulus to the city, offer new starting points and, especially, represent a milestone for our country in the development and study of a fascinating and not so well-known science, as it is meteorology.