Skip to main content

New NOAA forecast model could buy hours of time in the face of severe weather

Bite-Sized Science: Warn On Forecast
When it comes to surviving natural disasters, time is of the essence. Even a few extra minutes of notice can be the difference between life and death, but now, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researchers believe that they’ve created a forecast model that can give not minutes, but hours of advance notice regarding severe weather.

In May, NOAA conducted its first field test of a new Warn-on-Forecast system, described as a “new research tool that has the potential to dramatically improve predictions of extreme weather at specific locations up to three hours in advance.” On May 16, forecasters were able to alert residents of western Oklahoma to the possibility of large hail and tornadoes 90 minutes before the severe weather touched down.

“We had a picture of the storms and their evolution before they became life-threatening,” said Todd Lindley, science operations officer with the NOAA NWS Norman Forecast Office in Oklahoma. “We used this model guidance to forecast with greater lead time and greater confidence.”

While the Warn-on-Forecast system was naught but a prototype at that point, it still proved enormously helpful.

“Based on the information from the NWS, we knew storms would intensify when they reached our area and were able to activate the outdoor warning sirens about 30 minutes ahead of the tornado,” said Lonnie Risenhoover from Beckham County Emergency Management.

While tornado warnings have traditionally been issued by forecasters who must manually examine satellite data and volatility in the atmosphere, this new system is capable of digesting far more data and analysis than a human mind. Enormous amounts of satellite, radar, and surface readings are given to a prediction model that determines how this data will ultimately affect the weather. This allows forecasters to predict hazardous weather in half-mile blocks every two minutes, Science Alert reported.

“That level of detail and lead time in a forecast is new,” NSSL director Steve Koch said. “To have information conveying a sense of certainty in so small of an area that far in advance is a success.”

While Warn-on-Forecast isn’t totally operational yet, it serves as an important step in more accurate weather predictions, which could save many lives.

Editors' Recommendations

This groundbreaking new buoy can predict earthquakes and tsunamis. Here’s how
high tech buoy predicts earthquakes tsunamis 217817 web

Buoys, the flotation devices most commonly found at sea, can be used for a variety of purposes -- ranging from showing safe water areas to marking routes for waterborne racecourses. Throughout 2019, however, geoscientists from the University of South Florida have been using a new high-tech version to see if it could be used to help predict impending natural hazards, such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis. They believe that it can.

This shallow water buoy was developed using an $822,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. It currently sits off Florida’s Egmont Key in the Gulf of Mexico, where it produces data on the three-dimensional motion of the seabed by sensing tiny movements and changes on the seafloor. While Florida is not an area that’s prone to earthquakes, the Egmont Key location serves as a good test location for the technology. If it could ultimately be used to better forecast events like the giant earthquakes and tsunamis in Sumatra in 2004 and Japan in 2011, this would be money very well spent.

Read more
Meteorologists not swayed by telecom companies’ plans for 5G regulations
best hurricane trackers

Experts and officials have warned that interference from 5G wireless radios could seriously compromise the ability to forecast weather, including the prediction of extreme weather events like hurricanes.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been selling off access to the 24 GHz band used for 5G since last year, but scientists are concerned that this band is too close to the 23.8 GHz band used for collecting data about atmospheric conditions. If many 5G radios are used in the nearby band, they could interfere with the equipment used for weather forecasting.

Read more
This weather station system is a smart forecasting device you need in your home
WeatherFlow Tempest smart weather station

Although modern advances have allowed regular people to install weather stations right on their own properties, these devices haven’t changed a whole lot over the years, as weather stations have fallen behind when it comes to smart home technology. WeatherFlow hopes to change that: Its unique new Tempest smart weather system just met its goal on Kickstarter, but there’s still time to take advantage of an Early Bird discount. If you’re in the market for a weather station for your home, read on.

Weather stations have grown in popularity in recent years as they have become cheaper and more accessible for average users, although farmers, scientists, and other professionals have relied on these gadgets for decades now. The reason for owning a weather system like the WeatherFlow Tempest is simple: It will provide far more accurate, detailed, and up-to-date local climate information than any public weather service is capable of, and it’s a must-have addition to your home if you live in one of the many parts of the country where weather conditions can turn on a dime.

Read more