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Supercomputers Are Driving a Revolution in Hurricane Forecasting


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Puerto Rico, September 2017

Improved computer models make today's five-day forecasts as good as two-day forecasts were in 1998.

Credit: Getty Images

The European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts houses the world's 27th and 28th most powerful supercomputers, each with 126,000 cores and 20,000 times the computing power of its machine two decades ago.

This dramatic increase in computing power at the European center—as well as similar increases at U.S.-based and other international numerical modeling centers—helps to explain the dramatic increase in hurricane-forecast accuracy over the same time period.

The National Hurricane Center's 2017 Forecast Verification Report shows that for the hyperactive 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, the center set records for track forecasts at all time periods: 12-hour, 24-hour, and two-, three-, four-, and five-day forecasts.

This achievement represents both a testament to the forecasters at the Miami-based National Hurricane Center, and also to the increasing power of sophisticated computer models, the precision of which has driven overall forecast accuracy scores higher.

From Ars Technica
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