Major upgrade could give finer forecasts

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TAUNTON, Mass. (WPRI) — One of the main forecasting tools used at the National Weather Service and by the Pinpoint Weather Team is getting a major upgrade.

A critical meteorology computer model is operating with more power, according to meteorologist Hayden Frank at the Taunton office of the National Weather Service. But Frank cautions, because the upgrade is so new, it’s too early to claim victory against nor’easters.

“We’re just kind of getting a feel for how it is going to interact with different systems, where it’s going to have its strengths, where it’s going to have its weaknesses,” said Frank.

The (hopefully) improved computer model is called the Global Forecasting System, or GFS. It’s one of several weather models now in the toolbox of forecasters. “We look at all models and evaluate each situation for what it is, and make the proper assessment,” said Frank.

The GFS upgrade brings more computing power, which will let the model operate with higher resolution. If you think of atmospheric data like a grid of dots on a map, there are now many more dots packed into our viewing area. It can help predict all types of weather, especially the “dreaded” rain-snow line.

“A higher resolution model is basically going to pinpoint whether that is ten miles southeast of Providence, right over Providence, or northeast of Providence,” said Frank. “That can make the difference for people in the area, between ten inches of snow, or just an inch of cold rain.”

It’ll take a few storms — and consideration of how well they match the model — before we can determine the success of the upgrade.

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