February 26, 2019

NOAA Delays Release of Updated GFS Weather Model Because It Likes Snow Too Much



NOAA announced on Tuesday that the agency will delay the release of the updated GFS weather model because they accidentally gave it the personality of a husky.

The update's release, which had been scheduled for the middle of March, was already pushed back once due to the government shutdown in January. NOAA's press release covers the issues scientists still have to resolve before it goes operational:

-The snow depth and the water equivalent of snow depth at the surface have unrealistically large values when precipitation occurs in environments with low-level temperature profiles close to freezing. Techniques that use either of these variables for deriving snowfall will exhibit excessive snowfall values.

-The model forecasts exhibit a cold bias in the lower atmosphere that became more prominent after late September 2018.
In other words, certain situations can cause the model to exaggerate cold and snowy weather like a Twitter account that inexplicably has a five-figure following.

The GFS model, often referred to as "the American model" in weather forecasts, is one of two major global weather models—the other being the much-vaunted European model—that meteorologists use to guide their forecasting process.

GFS-FV3 utilizes a new dynamical core (Finite Volume Cubed-Sphere) that gives the model improved resolution and accuracy. The updated GFS model can, for instance, visualize thunderstorms in a way previous versions couldn't.

The operational readiness of the updated GFS model has been a hot topic of debate for meteorologists on social media. The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang covered the issue just a couple of weeks ago when some meteorologists began to voice concern that a buggy model was being rushed into service.

The scientists working on this (and all) of NOAA's weather models are hard at work resolving the issue, and they'll probably have it fixed within the next couple of months. NOAA's press release notes that the delay is indefinite, giving the team time and space to work on a fix.

You can still view experimental runs of the model on pretty much any weather modelling website, including Tropical Tidbits, which is the (fantastic) site I usually use anytime I need a model graphic.

[Top Image: Tropical Tidbits]


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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I ran Gawker's The Vane for two years and I've contributed to Mental Floss, Forbes, Popular Science, and the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang. I also teamed up with Outdoor Life to write a book called The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, which came out in October 2015.

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