When Croatia's national meteorological service infrastructure was badly damaged during the March 22nd Zagreb earthquake, while the coronavirus pandemic had much of Europe in "lock-down," creative thinking and skill were required.
Satellite observations are critical inputs for computer modelling of the weather and EUMETSAT supplies a significant proportion of those observations to its 30 Member States, including Croatia.
Almost all of EUMETSAT's workers are currently working from home, apart from those responsible for controlling the organization's 10 satellites in orbit. Keeping the satellites operating as normal, so that their data can be received, processed and disseminated to meteorological services around Europe and beyond, remains critically important, even in times like these.
On March 22, a 5.3 magnitude earthquake struck just north of Croatia's capital, Zagreb. This was the strongest earthquake to strike the country in 140 years. The Croatian Meteorological and Hydrological Service (DHMZ) has its headquarters in Zagreb. The premises was so badly damaged that staff could not enter the facility.
EUMETSAT Data Services Competence Area Manager, Lothar Wolf, said Croatia called for help, explaining that their data center was affected by the earthquake and they would like emergency support until their recovery site was up.
EUMETSAT and the European Cneter for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) based in Reading, in the UK, are working on a joint project to make their data accessible to users through a common big data services infrastructure.
The European Weather Cloud would make EUMETSAT and ECMWF data and products available more easily accessible to all meteorological data users, including meteorological services, at a time when their computer modelling can ingest vastly increased amounts of information. In addition, EUMETSAT is currently gearing up for the deployment of its next-generation satellite systems, which will produce exponentially more data.
However, the European Weather Cloud is still in its pilot stage and has not yet been used to support a Member State's meteorological service.
Communicating via a WhatsApp group and Skype, a core group at EUMETSAT worked on delivering what the DHMZ needed.
Wolf added that EUMETSAT asked them for their requirements, which included a virtual computing environment – a number of virtual machines - data from EUMETSAT, training, and support, as well as access to the ECMWF's forecast and archive data. The group at EUMETSAT discussed the requirements and assigned who was doing what, then each part of the group got on with it, accessing all of the necessary elements remotely. EUMETSAT has provided an emergency backup for Croatia for when they switch from their damaged headquarters infrastructure to their recovery site.
The group was able to set up the necessary arrangements for the DHMZ in just four hours.
Wolf added that the team members were all extremely pleased to be able to help. The ECMWF also stepped up to provide access to their European Weather Cloud infrastructure and technical support when needed.
EUMETSAT Head of Strategy, Communication and International Relations, Paul Counet, said the ability to provide support for Croatia at such a time and under such conditions had boosted the morale of everyone at the organization. He noted that these are extremely challenging and stressful times for everyone. The earthquake in Croatia was a terrible blow at an already difficult time. The importance of what we do – providing meteorological services with the data they need to keep their communities safe – cannot be overstated. He added the he is particularly glad EUMETSAT was able to rise to this challenge and deliver for one of the organization's Member States in their time of need.