News / Science & Technology

NOAA Bets Forecasting Success on Supercomputers

NOAA Supercomputer Means Better Storm Trackingi
X
August 30, 2013 8:36 PM
Meteorologists for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration get better at predicting weather as far as six days in advance, thanks to a new supercomputer. George Putic has more from College Park, Maryland.
VIDEO: Meteorologists for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration improve their ability to predict weather by greatly expanding their computational power.
George Putic
Early fall, as hurricane season begins, is the time when many Americans start to closely follow weather reports.
 
Because predicting the strength and movement of huge storm systems that bring destruction and death is of crucial importance, meteorologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have invested in supercomputers that allow for better predictions up to as six days in advance of a storm's arrival.
 
Hurricane Sandy, which hit the U.S. East Coast in October last year, was the second costliest storm in U.S. history — causing widespread damage and killing 285 people. At the time, some blamed meteorologists for not accurately predicting the path of the storm.
 
But according to Ben Kyger, Director of Central Operations at NOAA's College Park headquarters, weather forecasting is extremely difficult.
 
"You’ve got major patterns in the atmosphere, like the jet stream, but you’ve also got little eddies, little currents, little things happening all over the place," he said. "All these little changes are interacting with each other, continuously, all day long. So if you look at it from above, from a satellite, you see the atmosphere moving and churning in big ways and little ways."
 
Oceans, he says, are another factor because they closely interact with the atmosphere and have a huge effect on storms. In order to improve reliability of its forecasts, NOAA spent about $20 million on two new supercomputers that started building models of the weather patterns on July 25.
 
"These computers generate the initial model guidance that the whole forecast process depends on, for all the weather information that you see, with snowstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, how hot it’s going to be today — all of your weather forecasts start with what comes off of these supercomputers," he said.
 
While the computational power needed to analyze data from weather satellites, ground stations and other sources is enormous, human brainpower and experience remains crucial to accurately predicting temperature, air pressure, humidity and wind speed.
 
According to Kyger, meteorologists at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction scan the same data the supercomputers get before issuing a forecast.
 
"They look at lots of different models, assess that and create the five-day forecast," he said. "They have a lot of scientific and subjective knowledge from doing it year after year. They know where the models are strong, where they’re weak and they give us significantly better forecasts than the models would do by themselves."
 
NOAA issues worldwide forecasts every six hours each day of the year. Access is free — a benefit to countries that cannot afford their own weather service. NOAA has planned upgrades for its weather-predicting supercomputers set for 2015.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
September 04, 2013 3:13 AM
Meteorologists versus super computers, which is better at forecasting the weather? It is an interesting theme. Probably, as mentioned in this story, they would help and compensate each other. By the way, it is surprising that NOAA provides around the world of weather forecast for free every six hours each day of the year. I am sure these world-wide survices could not be available for any countries without volunteer spirits of the U.S. I am impressed, whether positive or negative, the U.S. always pays attention to the whole of world in every issues.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs