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NOAA Finishes Major Upgrade In Order To Improve Forecasting

(KXAN) — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) announced a major upgrade that should improve weather forecasts for the next few years and beyond.

The Department of Commerce expanded the capacity of the Weather and Climate Operational Supercomputing System known as WCOSS by 20%, they announced on Thursday.

The WCOSS provides computing power that should improve weather forecast models and other weather analysis tools, many of which are used by the members of the KXAN First Warning Weather Team to make our forecasts every day.

The 20% capacity improvements should allow for more complicated computer models which will take in more data with the goal of improving accuracy.

The US Global Forecast System model (GFS) will become a higher resolution model capable of 9km resolution (13km currently). Improving model resolution helps identify smaller scale weather features that can be missed with lower resolution computing. Other upgrades to the GFS will help with fog, wildfire smoke and dust forecasting.

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A new model known as the Rapid Refresh Forecast System (RRFS) should improve forecast confidence by bringing in more data and outputting more ensemble members. The RRFS is the next iteration of the HRRR and HREF models that are widely used in short term forecasting today.

According to the news release from NOAA the two supercomputers in Virginia and Arizona will “now operate at a speed of 14.5 petaflops each, and together, the forecast system can process 29 quadrillion calculations per second.”

When added to other NOAA supercomputers, this brings the total computing power to 49 petaflops.

“This increased supercomputing power allows for upgrades to specific modeling systems that will help weather forecasters deliver more accurate weather forecasts, watches and warnings and improved certainty in a forecast,” said Ken Graham, director of the National Weather Service.

NOAA’s Environmental Modeling Center in College Park, Maryland manage the forecasting models delivered by NOAA. In total 20 weather models come from the WCOSS.


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