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New engine is driving NOAA’s flagship weather forecast model

June 12, 2019 – As NOAA launches a major upgrade in its flagship weather forecast model this week, an important part is the Global Forecast System’s new dynamical core. The story of how scientists developed the dynamical core or engine of the model is a view into how scientific invention works.

The dynamical core, called the Finite-Volume Cubed-Sphere, or FV3, is a key model component that computes wind and air pressure for successful numerical weather prediction. It is expected to bring a new level of accuracy and efficiency to the Global Forecast System’s representation of atmospheric processes from the jet stream, to thunderstorms, to hurricanes, to winter blizzards. In the future it has a potential to improve simulations of clouds and precipitation at resolutions not yet seen in an operational weather forecast model.

Research Highlight

Uncertainties in Tropical-Cyclone Translation Speed

Hurricane Harvey

June 6, 2019 – A recent study found a downward trend from 1949-2016 in the speed at which tropical cyclones move. If this could be attributed to climate change the implications would be enormous. Slower moving storms, as exemplified by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, have the potential to produce much more rainfall than faster ones.

This study finds that the bulk of the decrease in speed is related to abrupt changes that occur in the earlier part of the period of study. Both the abruptness along with the lack of change during more recent times argues against a dominant role for climate change. The results suggest that the changes are likely due to a combination of natural climate variability and changes over time in the manner in which tropical cyclones were tracked. In particular the introduction of satellite remote sensing in the 1960s may have distorted the record by yielding more observations in areas which had previously been uncharted. It appears that such areas are ones where storms naturally move more slowly.

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Research Highlight

Advancements in Hurricane Prediction With NOAA’s Next‐Generation Forecast System

June 4, 2019 – When using European Centre for Medium‐Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) initial conditions, a new global weather model built at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory produces better hurricane forecast skill than the world‐leading European model.

Hurricane, or tropical cyclone, prediction has long been an important mission for weather forecast agencies to help mitigate hazards along coastlines and inland. In the United States, NOAA’s Global Forecast System (GFS) provides the front‐line guidance for hurricane forecasts. The new GFS was recently updated to include the Finite‐Volume Cubed‐Sphere Dynamical Core (FV3) developed at GFDL.

Research to Operations

New Forecast Product to Provide 3- to 4-Week Temperature and Precipitation Outlooks

Predicting the weather beyond two weeks in advance is a daunting challenge, but a team of scientists led by Nat Johnson (Associate Research Scholar, Princeton University/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Cooperative Institute for Climate Science), as part of a Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections (MAPP) Program-Climate Test Bed (CTB) project successfully developed and transitioned a forecast tool into operations that provides guidance to NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) forecasters for their operational 3-to- 4 week temperature outlooks.

News

Climate Change and the Scrambling of Seasons

Phytoplankton

June 3, 2019 – A new publication in the journal Global Change Biology is the first study to examine how 21st century climate will jumble seasonal signals across different parts of the marine food web. This paper published by former Princeton postdoctoral fellow Rebecca Asch (now at East Carolina University), Jorge Sarmiento (Princeton University), and Charles Stock (NOAA) shows that, on average, algae at the base of the marine food web will start to bloom about two weeks earlier by the end of the 21st century under a high emissions scenario.

Award

GFDL Director Named Finalist for Service to America Medal

V. Ramaswamy

May 7, 2019 – GFDL’s Director, Venkatachalam “Ram” Ramaswamy, Ph.D., is among the finalists announced this week for the 2019 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal (Sammies). The nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service announced the finalists – 26 federal employees and teams from more than 20 federal agencies and 15 states as well as Washington, D.C. and Haiti. Each finalist is a contender for one of seven Service to America Medals, awarded annually.

Research Highlight

Dynamical Seasonal Prediction of Tropical Cyclone Activity: Robust Assessment of Prediction Skill and Predictability

Atlantic hurricanes

May 17, 2019 – Dynamical seasonal prediction systems have recently shown great promises in predicting tropical cyclone activity. GFDL’s Forecast–oriented Low Ocean Resolution (FLOR) model (Vecchi et al. 2014) provides experimental predictions to National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) each month as part of the North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) project. The current study analyzes this state-of-the-art prediction system and offers a robust assessment of when and where the seasonal prediction of tropical cyclone activity is skillful.

Research to Operations

Next Generation Weather Prediction

The National Weather Service announced in July 2016 that it has adopted the FV3 core, developed at GFDL, as the backbone for the next generation US weather prediction model. This next generation model, with the ability to represent weather processes at very small spatial scales, should provide a major leap forward in US weather prediction capabilities, leading to improved prediction of extreme storms