New weather supercomputer--and a winter weather warning for the northeast : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Tuesday January 18, 2000 3:52 p.m. EST

New Weather Supercomputer Provides Longer, Better Forecasts

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The National Weather Service dedicated its new supercomputer Tuesday with a warning that major East Coast cities face the threat of snow and severe cold late this week.

A low pressure area developing off the Carolinas is expected to bring snow from Washington to New England on Thursday night, followed by brutally cold conditions on Friday and into Saturday, said Louis W. Uccellini, director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction.

He said snow totals could range from 2 inches around Washington to more than a foot on Long Island and to the north.

It's Uccellini's center that uses the new 786 processor IBM SP computer located in Bowie, Md.

Five times faster than the Cray C-90 it replaces, the new IBM can make 690 billion calculations per second. By September it will be speeded up to 2.5 trillion calculations per second, making it one of the two fastest weather computers in the world.

``This new supercomputer puts us closer to reaching our goal of becoming America's no surprise weather service,'' said Weather Service Director John J. Kelly Jr.

``This gives our forecasters more sophisticated models of the atmosphere and oceans, which act as blueprints for upcoming weather patterns,'' he said. ``On a daily basis, we should see a 10 percent improvement in predicting temperatures, humidity and pinpointing when, where and how much rainfall will occur.''

The new computer, leased for $35 million until 2002, provides the basic guidance for forecasts issued by the Weather Service as well as forecasts provided in newspapers and broadcast on radio and television.

Billions of pieces of information on the weather around the world are fed into the computer continually, giving it a picture of current conditions.

The computer then uses forecast models, which are complex sets of mathematical formulas, to calculate how these conditions will probably change over the next few minutes, hours and days. The models understand patterns of weather movement and how one type of weather affects areas nearby. The models are repeatedly updated with new sets of conditions and then run again.

The results of the models are then sent by computer to Weather Service offices around the country, to universities, to private forecasting companies and to foreign weather services for use in developing local forecasts.

The faster the computer runs the more accurate the forecast is likely to be and the longer period of warning meteorologists can give, Kelly said.

Currently, national forecasts are able to predict the development and movement of weather systems about the size of New Jersey two to five days in advance, Uccellini said.

With the new computer, he said forecasts will be able to predict systems as small as individual counties some six to 10 days ahead of time.

Uccellini said the theoretical limit on an accurate forecast is thought to be about 14 days, and for longer periods predictions are more general.

The older Cray C-90 computer had been in use since 1994 and was to be offered to other government agencies when replaced, but it was destroyed in a fire last September.

Fortunately, Kelly said, installation of the new IBM was already underway. Until it could be put into full service, forecast models were run on computers operated by the Navy, Air Force, Weather Research Office and the European Center for Medium Range Forecasting in Bracknell, England, which has the other of the two fastest weather computers in use.

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, Associated Press Writer

-- Old Git (, January 18, 2000


Well......our high temp yesterday was 20 below zero! Yup- that was as good as it got- we've been thawing pipes all weekend......can't wait to see what "bitter cold" would be.....although the Farmer's Almanac predicted record breaking cold for late jan. up here-and they have a good track record. I've seen 32 below up here- I was away when it hit 48 below a few years ago.....

-- farmer (, January 18, 2000.

To Farmer-- Where the heck are you? -20F for the HIGH? WOW We had 0F for the high for the past several days. -41F is as cold as I have ever seen it here in north central Pennsylvania.

-- Pam (, January 18, 2000.

Not for nuthin, but the PJM and NEPOOL power was spiking in the futures markets today. Up on high demand due to the record cold up there. Don't be surprised if this doesn't really F*ck things up for the NE in a big way. Severe cold can actually affect crude and product pipes, vessels, refining units etc.

Also, the power demand was so great that futures on it doubled and increased spot market prices in the Southeast.

-- Gordon (, January 18, 2000.


I think you are going to have to put on the long undies eh?

Good luck eastcoasters

And remember to keep your liners dry!

-- Brian (, January 18, 2000.

Long underwear? Not me, dear, I'm British. When it's really cold we tend to say offfhandedly, "I am just going outside and may be some time,"* and then disappear into the frozen wastes so as to leave more food for the others.

(*Capt. L. E. G. Oates, on the last Scott expedition, 1912.)

-- Old Git (, January 18, 2000.

People who wear DEPENDS should stay indoors.

-- (precautions@nurse.ratchet), January 18, 2000.


Sounds like "Ravens and Englishman in the frozen wastes"??


-- Brian (, January 18, 2000.

Tues 01-18-2000 9:32 CST Hope their computer can drudge up some water for the midwest and Iowa. The Skunk and Raccoon rivers are no more than a creek (skimpy one at that). This is the driest fall and winter I ever remember. Have NEVER seen the rivers that low. A lot of towns, who get their drinking water from these rivers, could be facing some real surprises and soon if the midwest doesn't get rain or snow. The temp today was warm enough to be outside with no coat, and open a window or two for fresh air. In Iowa, in January!

-- suzy (, January 18, 2000.

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