NOAA upgrades American weather model known as the GFS

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The Global Forecast System is now up to 15 percent more accurate five days out for hurricanes, and precipitation events according to research released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Monday.

Louis Uccellini is the director of NOAA’s National Weather Service.

“We’re pleased to announce that we have completed the implementation of the GFS version 16.0 today,” Uccellini said during a phone conference on Monday. “I’m really excited to share with you that the National Weather Service has made several significant upgrades to NOAA’s flagship weather model the Global Forecast System.”

The GFS allows meteorologists to see weather up to 16 days out. Recently Vijay Tallapragada studied the upgraded model as a major winter storm approached Colorado. He is the chief of the Modeling and Data Assimilation Branch of NOAA’s Environmental Modeling Center.

“The recent winter storms in Colorado were well captured and predicted by GFS version 16 compared to the operational GFS with more accurate timing location and magnitude of snow forecasts for Colorado multiple days in advance,” Tallapragada said.

Tallapragada said they tested the upgraded GFS in real-time during the 2018 hurricane season and every day since May 10, 2019.

“The GFS version 16 showed improved forecast in many areas including hurricane genesis lead times, snowfall forecasting and the prediction of extreme rainfall events,” Tallapragada said.

Hurricane tracks and intensities in the Atlantic Basin saw 10-15 percent improvements. Tropical cyclone development was forecasted 36 hours earlier. Tallapragada said precipitation forecast saw a 15 percent improvement in forecasts five days in advance.

“The new GFS actually predicted the arrival of the significant weather event in Colorado I think 24-48 hours in advanced compared to the operational GFS which was slow in the beginning,” Tallapragada said.

Tallapragada said the vertical resolution of the model was doubled. This means the data is now being processed at 127 vertical levels. The previous upgrade to 64 levels was done in 2003.

The model also covers more of the atmosphere. Tallapragada said the top of the model was raised from 55 km to 80 km.

“Which means more data from the upper atmosphere and more vertical levels throughout the atmosphere column that are available to our users,” Tallapragada said. “Raising the model top and increasing the vertical resolution has a direct impact on improving forecasts in the upper atmosphere including sudden stratospheric warmings and better representation of low tropospheric processes for improved near-surface forecasts.”

The new version was released at 8 a.m. EDT.

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