Tuesday, March 12, 2013

In Weather Forecasting, the European Model Rocks

Snowquester - Image from NOAA's GOES-13 satellite on Mar. 6, 2013, shows winter storm over the U.S. mid-Atlantic.
As a semi-weather geek, I'm always fascinated by the accuracy of weather forecasting in our time. And some weather services are more accurate than others. Our own National Weather Service needs more support to be able to compete with the Europeans in forecasting. The European weather computer model, European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), famously predicted exactly where Hurricane Sandy would fall, and more recently, the snowfall for Snowquester (March 6, 2013 Nor'easter). The Global Forecasting System (GFS) is run by the NWS every four hours and is the only model whose output is in the public domain freely available everywhere per U.S. law. But, many observers feel that the NWS is in need of increased computer power* to be able to produce the high quality forecasts for which the Europeans are renowned. The recent Snowquester forecast was a bit of an embarrassment for the NWS, unfortunately. But, we can do better and hopefully, their resources can be improved. Of course, watching the satellite views (above) of the impending Snowquester would have made many of us believe it was going to be huge everywhere in the Mid-Atlantic as opposed to mainly in the Shenandoah Valley!
Two recent interesting articles discuss the differences in numerical weather prediction: 
  1. The Washington Post cites a blogger who derides U.S. forecasting as "second rate."
  2. *National Geographic investigates the reasons the Europeans are stronger in weather forecasting.

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