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NOAA Upgrades Forecasts As Climate Change Drives More Severe Storms

NOAA Upgrades Forecasts As Climate Change Drives More Severe Storms

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration upgraded the computer model that forecasters use to predict the weather one to two weeks in the future, called the Global Forecast System. The new model is better at predicting where hurricanes will form and how intense they will be as well as where and when snowstorms and rainstorms will occur, and how much precipitation will fall.

"This is going to have a fundamental impact on the forecasts that are provided day to day," says Louis Uccellini, director of the National Weather Service.

Climate change is driving more severe weather across the country. In recent years, Americans have experienced record-breaking hurricanes, wildfires, heat waves and rainstorms. In many cases, federal weather forecasts have not provided accurate information.

The most striking example was in 2012 when the model was slow to predict that Hurricane Sandy was going to make landfall. During the 2019 hurricane season, the federal weather model underperformed the European Union's forecast model when it came to predicting where hurricanes would make landfall. And just this month the model incorrectly predicted how much precipitation would fall in a snowstorm that hit the Boulder, Colo., area.

Inaccurate federal forecasts are dangerous because most weather apps, websites and television weather reports rely on the government information.

In tests, the upgraded weather model performed better than its predecessor. "Improvements are pretty significant for this upgrade," says Vijay Tallapragada, the head of the Modeling and Data Assimilation Branch for NOAA's Environmental Modeling Center.

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