Monday, November 25, 2019

Better weather forecasts coming to the developing world

Making a better world by providing accurate, higher resolution forecasts.
Technology company IBM said on Thursday it will launch a new weather forecasting system which will be able to predict conditions up to 12 hours in advance and cover parts of the world which have not had access to such detailed data.
Demand for very precise and quicker weather forecasts has grown as more extreme conditions increase due to climate change and as more variable renewable energy goes to the grid.
The system, known as IBM GRAF - the Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System - will run on a supercomputer and provide more detailed and higher quality forecasts.
Previously, this kind of precise forecasting has been available in the United states, Japan and some west European countries.
IBM’s new day-ahead forecasting system will provide data to cover the world, including Asia, Africa and South America, some of the regions most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, the company said.
Current global weather models cover 10-15 kilometers squared and are updated every six to 12 hours. IBM’s system will forecast down to 3 km sq and update hourly.

From VOAnews

As more extreme weather takes its toll around the world, computer giant IBM says it is making a breakthrough in precision weather forecasting available to everyone.

The company said the new high-resolution forecasts bring a level of precision previously available only in major industrialized countries.

It is expected to help emergency managers better predict where severe storms will strike, as well as aid airlines planning flight paths and farmers tending crops.
Not to mention commuters deciding whether to carry an umbrella.

The new system generates forecasts more frequently and with finer details than what’s available outside the United States, Europe and Japan.

An August 2018 monsoon forecast in India,
according to the current model, left, and the new, higher-resolution model, right.
“The enhanced forecasts could be revolutionary for some areas of the world, such as for a rural farmer in India or Kenya,” said Cameron Clayton, head of The Weather Company, a subsidiary of IBM.
“If you’ve never before had access to high-resolution weather data but could now anticipate thunderstorms before they approach your fields, you can better plan for planting or harvesting,” he added.

Most forecasts have a resolution of 10 to 15 square kilometers and update every six to 12 hours.
IBM’s Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (GRAF) goes down to 3 square kilometers and updates every hour.
“That’s providing a level of detail that we’ve not been able to see in parts of the world such as Southeast Asia, Africa as well as South America,” said Kevin Petty, director of science and forecasting at IBM-owned The Weather Company.

That precision can reveal details of where and when extremely heavy rain will fall.
That could be useful in emergency situations, as well as more mundane events.
It could help farmers decide when to plant, harvest and fertilize, for example.

As we address climate change and intensifying severe weather, it's more critical now than ever to have access to timely, reliable forecasting services around the world.
Unfortunately, not all forecasts are created equal.
To help address this issue, IBM's The Weather Company has launched a powerful new forecasting tool called IBM GRAF.
The hourly-updating Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (IBM GRAF) improves global model resolution by 3x, helping to bring the rest of the world's forecasts up to the standard once limited to a small number of countries.
Created in collaboration with NCAR and running on a GPU-accelerated IBM supercomputer, IBM GRAF is the world's first operational high-resolution, hourly-updating model that covers the entire globe.
It helps democratize weather forecasts so people, businesses and governments -- anywhere -- can make better weather-related decisions.

Better forecasts around globe

“I think it’s a pretty large achievement,” said University of Oklahoma emeritus meteorology professor Fred Carr, who was not involved with the project.

The United States has a similar high-resolution system, “but it’s just for the U.S.
because it takes so much computer time,” Carr said.
“To do it for the whole globe is a pretty significant achievement.”

The Weather Company’s Petty said, “We are just now getting to the point of having the level of computational power to do this.”

GRAF runs the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s state-of-the-art open-source weather model on high performance supercomputers.

Forecasts are only as good as the observations that go into them, Carr said.

This video is a demo of the new 3km IBM GRAF model, which is based on the MPAS Model.
The valid time of this run is for last night's storm that passed the northeast, resulting in numerous power outages across the Northeast due to strong winds.

Finding, filling the gaps

It’s possible to quickly collect observations from radar, airplanes and surface measurements in the United States, he added, but it’s not apparent how IBM gets data from the other 98% of the globe, especially in areas that currently don’t have extensive weather systems.

Carr said he suspects “there’s gonna be gaps, or failures, or problems sometimes in getting those data in. So, sometimes those forecasts aren’t going to be very accurate.”

Users will be able to decide for themselves.
The system now runs on and The Weather Channel smartphone app.

In the future, IBM hopes to improve its forecasts by collecting data from atmospheric pressure sensors that are now standard equipment in smartphones.

These sensors improve the accuracy of GPS.
They can help fitness trackers calculate how many flights of stairs the user has climbed, for example.

IBM said it is not currently using this data but plans to offer users the opportunity to opt in.

This kind of data collection from tech companies has drawn scrutiny from privacy advocates.
The city of Los Angeles is currently suing IBM for improperly using location information from Weather Channel app users.

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