NOAA is about to make some big changes to its global weather model

Ominous wall cloud portends possible violent weather in Nebraska early in 2018.

Enlarge / Ominous wall cloud portends possible violent weather in Nebraska early in 2018. (credit: NOAA)

The nation's weather and climate organization, NOAA, has appointed a new director of its Environmental Modeling Center. This position essentially oversees development of the US computer models used to forecast weather around the world. The new director is Brian Gross, who fortunately has extensive experience in the field, having worked at NASA and led NOAA's prestigious Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

Gross becomes the full-time leader of NOAA's modeling center at a critical time. It is about to substantially change the dynamic core, or engine, of its primary weather model—the Global Forecast System. This GFS model provides the foundation of many, if not most, seven- and 10-day forecasts that consumers see on their weather apps or in the nightly news. It also provides critical forecasts for hurricane tracks and other significant weather around the world.

NOAA plans to implement this change, to what's known as the "FV3 dynamic core," as early as the end of January 2019. "This is the biggest change to the global model that’s being run in operations in about 40 years," Gross told Ars in an interview. "We think the FV3 is going to prepare us for a very bright future in terms of prediction capability."

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