On January 8, 2019, IBM announced that it will soon introduce a new higher resolution weather-forecasting system. The IBM Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (GRAF) will offer 3 kilometer resolution compared to the current industry-average 13-kilometer resolution. That’s 1.25 miles instead of 8.
The system will enable truly local forecasts as opposed to regional. And it will do so on a worldwide basis. Forecasters will soon see individual thunderstorms, not just fronts. And the system will update every hour as opposed to every six to twelve hours, which is the current industry standard. NOAA’s High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model does run hourly at 3-kilometer resolution, but only covers the U.S. The new GRAF system will offer enhanced resolution throughout the world and predict weather as small as a thunderstorm anywhere on the planet. It should especially help regions without access to a system like HRRR.
Improvements Result from Wider Data Collection and Enhanced Processing Power.
IBM says it will crowdsource data. GRAF has the ability to collect pressure sensor readings sent from barometers found in billions of smartphones (if people opt in to share that information). GRAF will also collect data from tens of thousands of commercial aircraft constantly flying at high altitudes all around the world. IBM will process all that data on one of the three most powerful supercomputers in the world. The graphics processing unit in the computer can handle 3.5 petabytes of data. Each petabyte equals 1 million gigabytes or a billion megabytes.
Benefits of Higher Resolution
This much-improved weather system will help people and communities plan better for weather events. IBM expects it will help:
- Utility companies to better position repair crews to get power back faster after a storm
- Airlines to more effectively route around turbulence
- Farmers to better anticipate and prepare for dramatic shifts in weather
- Insurers to predict surges in weather-related claims
- Better emergency response during extreme events, such as hurricanes, typhoons or tonoradoes.
The new IBM GRAF system should enable more accurate forecasts and better coordination throughout the world.
For more information, see posts about the new IBM GRAF system on Weather Underground and Weather Company sites. Also, the Washington Post had an interesting review that discusses the history of the system’s development.
My thanks to Mario Gomez, retired KHOU weather forecaster, for bringing this to my attention.
Posted by Bob Rehak on January 9, 201
498 Days since Hurricane Harvey