ECMWF History

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) was established in 1975. Its purpose – then as now – was to pool Europe's meteorological resources to produce accurate climate data and medium-range forecasts. The project was created by COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology), which supported co-operation between scientists and technicians in Europe. The UK won a bid to host the Centre, thanks to the proximity of its proposed site to the UK Met Office and the University of Reading.

1971-12-09 00:00:00

Convention established

The first draft of the ECMWF Convention was considered on 9 and 10 December 1971, with 32 senior representatives from 14 of the 18 founding States attending. The Convention was signed in 1973 and came into force on 1 November 1975. Its creation set up the centre as an independent intergovernmental organisation.

1973-10-11 00:00:00

Convention signed

The Convention set up the Centre as an independent international organisation.

1974-01-01 00:00:00

Professor Dr Aksel Wiin-Nielsen, Director

A Danish national, Professor Askel Wiin-Nielsen was ECMWF’s first Director from 1 January 1974 to 31 December 1979. He put ECMWF on track to become a world leader in global numerical weather prediction.

1974-01-01 00:00:00

Dr E. Süssenberger, Council President


1975-11-01 00:00:00

Co-operation Agreement with WMO

Co-operation agreement

1975-11-01 00:00:00

Convention enters into force

Having been ratified by 13 Member States, the ECMWF Convention entered into force on 1 November 1975 and the Centre became an intergovernmental organisation in its own right.

1975-11-04 00:00:00

First Member States

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Germany, France, Ireland, Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom deposited their instruments of ratification.

1975-11-04 00:00:00

First ECMWF Council session

The first session of the Council was held from 4 to 6 November 1975.

1976-01-01 00:00:00


Member State

1976-01-01 00:00:00

CDC6600, Bracknell Met Office site

ECMWF supercomputer history. In order to run weather forecast models within a schedule that has reasonably short timeslots, powerful supercomputer systems are required. The first version of the ECMWF weather forecasting model was developed on a Control Data Corporation 6600 computer from 1976 to 1978.

1976-05-01 00:00:00


Member State

1976-09-01 00:00:00


Member State

1977-01-01 00:00:00

Professor L.A. Vuorela, Council President

1977-09-01 00:00:00


Member State

1978-10-24 00:00:00

Cray-1 Series + CYBER 175

The first supercomputer owned by ECMWF was installed on 24 October 1978 at the new Shinfield Park site.

1978-12-31 00:00:00

Telecommunications contract signed

On 14 March 1978 a contract was signed with Service in Informatics and Analysis (SIA) Ltd. (UK) to supply the necessary telecommunications software, with a/S Regnecentralen (Denmark) as sub-contractor providing the hardware centred on an RC8000 computer.

1979-06-15 00:00:00

Official opening of ECMWF headquarters in Reading, UK

The new headquarters for the Centre were opened by H.R.H. Prince Charles, K.G, K.T., P.C., G.C.B. who was accompanied by the Lord Lieutenant of the County of Berkshire, Colonel the Honourable Gordon Palmer.

1979-08-01 00:00:00

Start of operational forecasting

Operational forecasting began on 1 August 1979, with forecasts to ten days ahead five days per week using the N48 grid model.

1979-12-31 00:00:00


The external telecommunications network linking the Centre and Member States was controlled by hardware centred on a Regnecentralen 8000 computer and software developed by Service in Informatics and Analysis Ltd. UK (SIA).

1980-01-01 00:00:00

Jean Labrousse, Director

1980-01-01 00:00:00

Mr P.K. Rohan, Council President

1980-08-01 00:00:00

Fully operational forecasting

1 August 1980 is a very important date in ECMWF's history, representing the initiation of full (7 days per week) operational forecasting.

1981-01-01 00:00:00

Professor E. Lingelbach, Council President

1981-01-01 00:00:00

CYBER 730E or 835

By 1981 there was a terminal in the office of each scientist and programmer.

1981-04-30 00:00:00

More medium speed lines

Five new medium speed (2400 or 4800 bps) telecommunication connections to Member States become operational.

1982-01-01 00:00:00

VAX 11/750

In 1982, the Centre issued an Invitation to Tender for a data handling sub-system and a local computer interconnection sub-system.

1982-01-01 00:00:00

Professor Dr Lennart Bengtsson, Director

1983-01-01 00:00:00

16 level T63 spectral operational model introduced

1983-09-30 00:00:00

Graphic facilities improvements

A separate processor for graphical work (DEC VAX 11-750) was put in place.

1983-12-31 00:00:00

MARS, Cyber 170-855 and IBM 4341

These replaced the Cyber 175 in order to improve the interactive services and computing power for processing of meteorological data. The IBM was to be used for data storage and retrieval, with discs for fast access, a bulk storage device using magnetic cartridges and magnetic tape for archives.

1984-01-01 00:00:00

Professor L.A. Mendes Victor, Council President

1984-03-13 00:00:00

Cray X-MP/22

The Cray-1A was replaced by a dual processor Cray X-MP/22. This had two CPUs and 16 Mbytes of memory. ECMWF used this system to pioneer the operational use of multitasking, i.e. a programming paradigm that makes use of more than one CPU by a single program.

1984-06-01 00:00:00


A Graphics Project Group was established in 1984 to design and implement a second-generation system. This led to development of the Meteorological Application Graphics Integrated Colour System or MAGICS, which provided the basis for the Centre’s future graphics developments for the coming decades.

1985-01-15 00:00:00

Cycle 20

Surface pressure is computed from analysed field instead of first-guess in post-processing.

1985-05-01 00:00:00

Cycle 22

The T106 model became operational. The spectral representation in the horizontal was truncated at wavenumber 106. The vertical resolution was not changed...

1985-07-18 00:00:00

Cycle 24

The production of rain in the convective parametrisation scheme and the evaporation efficiency over land was modified due to the over-forecasting of precipitation (particularly over Europe) and the marked negative bias in the 2m temperature in daytime (in particular when dry, sunny conditions were observed).

1985-11-01 03:27:24

10 years of ECMWF

1985-12-01 00:00:00

Cray X-MP/48

In December 1985, a four processor CRAY X-MP/48 was installed. It replaced the CRAY X-MP/22 after passing its final acceptance test on 11 February 1986. This system had 4 CPUs with a cycle time of 9.5 nanoseconds (102 MHz), 64 Megabytes of memory, 256 Megabytes of SSD and 13 Gigabytes of disk space, with a theoretical peak performance of 800 Megaflops.

1985-12-09 00:00:00

Cycle 25

The solar heating rates were modified and the subterranean extrapolation was changed. An error in the vertical diffusion was corrected.

1986-05-13 00:00:00

Cycle 26

The 16-level model was replaced by a 19-level model. The three extra levels were introduced in the stratosphere.

1986-06-19 00:00:00

EUMETSAT founded

The European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) was founded in 1986.

1986-07-15 00:00:00

Cycle 27

A parametrisation scheme for representing the momentum transports due to subgrid gravity wave drag was incorporated into the operational ECMWF forecast model.

1986-10-07 00:00:00

Cycle 28

The snow melt logic was corrected. The old scheme caused a drop of the surface temperature when snow had to melt on the ground at the expense of surface energy.

1986-12-31 00:00:00


The NTC telecommunications system, based on Digital Equipment Company VAX computers, replaced the previous Regnecentralen computer system.

1987-01-01 00:00:00

Professor A. Wiin-Nielsen, Council President

1987-04-07 00:00:00

Cycle 29

The surface and subsurface parametrisation scheme was revised. Each grid box was then divided into vegetated and bare ground parts which concerned the evaporation over land surfaces. The time evolution of the soil water content took root uptake, interruption of precipitation and collusion of dew by a skin reservoir, surface run off due to sloping terrain and gravitational drainage into account.

1987-12-31 00:00:00

IBM 3090-150E

An IBM 3090-150E computer was installed in June 1987 for handling the very large volume of data in the Centre’s archives.

1988-01-01 00:00:00

Professor S. Palmieri, Council President

1988-01-05 00:00:00

Cycle 30

A revised vertical diffusion scheme was implemented. The turbulent diffusion was limited to below the top of the boundary layer except when static instability was generated. This modification restricted the vertical mixing to the boundary layer. The reduction of dissipation and momentum and heat mixing in the free atmosphere had a positive impact on zonal mean temperatures and reduced the zonal wind errors. The eddy activity became stronger.

1988-04-01 00:00:00


The Centre co-operated with INPE (Instituto de Pesquisas Espaciais) Brazil, to produce a version of MAGICS, known as micro-MAGICS, for implementation on personal computers. A prototype of the micro-MAGICS software was demonstrated at a graphics workshop held at the centre in December 1988.

ECMWF History

Copy this timeline Login to copy this timeline 3d Game mode

Contact us

We'd love to hear from you. Please send questions or feedback to the below email addresses.

Before contacting us, you may wish to visit our FAQs page which has lots of useful info on Tiki-Toki.

We can be contacted by email at:

You can also follow us on twitter at

If you are having any problems with Tiki-Toki, please contact us as at:


Edit this timeline

Enter your name and the secret word given to you by the timeline's owner.

3-40 true Name must be at least three characters
3-40 true You need a secret word to edit this timeline

Checking details

Please check details and try again