Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences

CIRES/NOAA models on track toward prediction of storms

CIRES/NOAA models on track toward prediction of storms


While Sandy swept across the North East, CIRES Fellow Stan Benjamin and CIRES scientist Curtis Alexander compare and contrast the “Superstorm’s” path with the output of the Flow-following finite-volume Icosahedral Model (FIM). This is the same model that has been involved in the experimental forecasting for NOAA’s Hurricane Forecasting Improvement Project.

“The FIM model has been used in the last week for forecasting Sandy,” said Benjamin, a CIRES Fellow and research meteorologist. “Although at this stage the model is experimental and doesn’t supplant existing models, it is bringing more accurate guidance to assist with NOAA operational hurricane forecasting.”

Benjamin and Alexander are just two of a team of CIRES scientists who work in the Global Systems Division (GSD) of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL).  The GSD researchers develop a range of information systems including models to predict short-range, high impact weather events as well as those to provide longer-term medium-range weather guidance and in the near future, intraseasonal forecasts.

In addition to FIM, members of GSD have also developed a real-time experimental hourly updated High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model which predicts the hour-by-hour movements of both small and large scale storms across the lower 48 U.S.  This model has also been used to track Sandy in the last 36 hours. “It gets used to provide more accurate guidance for weather hazards of any kind within the next 15 hours,” Benjamin said.

Even in its experimental stage, the HRRR model provides some guidance especially regarding severe thunderstorms for the National Weather Service, Benjamin said. The model is also used to inform FAA air traffic control systems and to provide weather predictions for the Department of Energy’s renewable energy projects. 

“Ultimately we improve the ability of NOAA to serve society and the economy by providing better environmental information and a greater understanding of what takes place in the earth’s system and atmosphere,” Benjamin said.

GSD is able to take advantage of a lot of the pure research that is done in NOAA in developing its models, Benjamin said.  The synergy between the different groups within and outside NOAA allows the new models to be even more powerful and potentially accurate, he said.

“We are demonstrating that these more accurate next-generation weather models are not too far off from further improving NOAA’s everyday forecasts,” Benjamin said. 

Additional CIRES scientists involved in these projects are Patrick Hofmann, Ming Hu, Eric James, William Moninger, Joseph Olsen, Steven Peckham, Tanya Smirnova and Zue Wei.


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