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Weather Forecasting Model Gets Big Upgrade

June 18, 2019 06:51 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- Predicting weather isn't an easy job; it's quite literally predicting the future.

But predicting the future is going to get a little easier, thanks to an upgrade that's been several decades in the making.

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"Twenty-five years ago we were looking at blobs of precipitation over certain regions of the country," said Dan Baumgardt, Science and Operations Officer at the National Weather Service in La Crosse, Wis. But that was when Baumgardt first joined the National Weather Service, and forecasting is changing.

"We can now simulate thunderstorms in a computer model in real time," said Baumgardt. "So I can look at the forecast for tomorrow and see where these thunderstorms may be, according to one computer simulation. We were never able to do that."

Thanks to advancements in technology, weather models have been continuously improved upon, though no model is perfect. But the latest model to receive an upgrade, which went into effect on June 12, is the Global Forecast System, otherwise known as the GFS. It's one of just a handful of models that meteorologists use to build a forecast.

"We've been tweaking, like tweaking the precipitation schemes, the microphysics schemes, how the land and the sea go together, but this one is the innards of that, so it's a lot of the equations that move air and calculate the pressures and all that."

So what does this upgrade mean to meteorologists on and off the screen, as well as you?

According to Baumgardt, better forecasts. The improved core of the GFS means there will be improvements to temperature forecasts, tropical cyclone intensity, and track forecasts, as well as winter weather improvements. In addition, better resolution for large, synoptic size systems down to individual storms.

However, whether it's winter or severe weather, Baumgardt says this upgrade will only improve the mission of meteorologists across the nation and the world: To keep people safe.

"Putting people into a safe place when there's inclement weather. It's a small percentage of the time, but the challenge of trying to get people into the right place at the right time, to be safe, and knowing that you played a part in that public service, is really rewarding."

Credits

Blaise Keller

Copyright 2019 - KAAL-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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