Attention powder-chasers, it looks like we might be getting better and more accurate snow forecasts next year. Our main source of weather info, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) just announced a major upgrade to the 40-year-old software at the heart of its weather prediction capability. NOAA said the upgrade should help improve predictions of severe weather, including winter storms and hurricanes and other tropical storms.
The software, known as the Global Forecast System, or GFS, models the physics of global weather, taking data from satellites and sensors to produce predictions of conditions in coming hours and days. Meteorologists around the world rely on it for making forecasts, reports the NY Times.
Many researchers and meteorologists complained that the GFS was less accurate than similar models from other governments and institutions — most notably one produced by the European Center for Medium-Range Forecasts, which, along with GFS, is the most widely used worldwide. Deficiencies in the GFS model were especially apparent during Sandy, which struck the New York area in 2012, causing 44 deaths and $19 billion in damage in New York City alone. Early on as the storm, which was then a hurricane, moved northward, the European model accurately forecast how it would intensify, shift westward and strike the coast. For days, the GFS model forecast that Sandy would head harmlessly out to sea.
The upgrade is part of a series of improvements that were undertaken after Sandy. In addition to improving the software, more computing power was added. The European model also had the advantage of vastly greater number-crunching capacity.