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August 26, 2006

Weather Forecast Accuracy Gets Boost with New Computer Model

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (or NCAR), sent out a press release announcing that the high-resolution Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF), developed by a partnership of NCAR, the National Weather Service, and over 150 research institutions, has been adopted for day-to-day operational use by civilian and military weather forecasters.

According to the press release, tests over the last year at NOAA and AFWA have shown that the new model offers multiple benefits over its predecessor models. For example:

  • Errors in nighttime temperature and humidity across the eastern United States are cut by more than 50%%.
  • The model depicts flight-level winds in the subtropics that are stronger and more realistic, thus leading to improved turbulence guidance for aircraft.
  • The model outperformed its predecessor in more than 70%% of the situations studied by AFWA.
  • WRF incorporates data from satellites, radars, and a wide range of other tools with greater ease than earlier models.

It will be very interesting to see how use of the new model trickles down into the public forecasts that ForecastWatch tracks. We'll be certainly keeping an eye on the trends and will let you know about any we see.

If you are interested in learning more about the new model, you can visit the WRF website here.

The WRF model is the replacement for the widely used MM5 model, which can run on anything from a Linux desktop to a supercomputer. The model is primarily written in Fortran, and comprises about 360,000 lines of code. You can run the model yourself by getting the source code here. It features a module-based approach, which will allow researchers to plug in their own specific models (say for hail formation, etc.) and physics schemes/solvers.

It is certainly exciting times in weather forecasting!



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