NOAA Readying the Next Step in Global Forecast Modeling - KOAM TV 7

NOAA Readying the Next Step in Global Forecast Modeling


When it comes to global forecast models, the United States was the brains behind the GFS (Global Forecast System). Even though changes have been made to the computer model, technology and new processes to gather and analyze data have significantly improved over the course of 30 years. NOAA is implementing their first step to improving the GFS model with the introduction of the Finite Volume Cube-Sphered (FV3) dynamical core. 

From NOAA, it was developed in NOAA Research’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory initially to power climate models and was then adapted for detailed global weather prediction. The National Weather Service chose FV3 as the new GFS’s dynamical core in part because it uses less computer resources than other options. FV3 brings unprecedented accuracy to forecasts in three important ways:

  • Computer Usage — FV3 is designed to efficiently scale to the available resources on any supercomputer for faster, higher resolution images. The current GFS, developed before the age of high speed computers, is not able to provide such highly detailed information. Even if it ran on a computer with more processing power, it would not work faster.
  • Vertical Equations — FV3 uses vertical equations to limitlessly zoom down to local scales and provide images of up-down air fluctuations, allowing us to resolve thunderstorms and their updraft winds. Older models assume the atmosphere experiences equal forces from above and below. This assumption can provide accurate prediction over large areas, but is unable to see the small-scale fluctuating winds that can lead to severe weather.
  • Representation — FV3 represents weather through points in connected grid cells, so it can resolve weather that comes in irregular shapes. The current GFS represents all weather as waves. It’s been successful in large-scale modelling, but weather phenomena do not always follow wave patterns on the local level. For example, thunderstorms and cold fronts have sharp edges that a wave shape can not fully capture.

 With the aim to deliver better and more timely forecasts, NOAA is looking to implement this improvement soon. As of this writing, it is being run experimentally and NOAA is aiming to have this operational in late 2019.

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