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NOAA image of IBM supercomputer.June 17, 2004 — The NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction, along with four federal and civilian partners commemorated the 50th anniversary of operational numerical weather prediction models in a symposium this week at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md. (Click NOAA image for larger view of IBM supercomputer. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)

The symposium highlighted significant achievements in meteorology. These include forecasters' ability to extend weather forecasts out to seven days in advance, predict extreme weather events out to four to seven days in advance, and capture smaller features of the surface of the Earth, which play a major role in forecasting weather conditions. U.S. Air Force Weather Agency, Fleet Numerical Meteorological and Oceanography Center, National Weather Association and the American Meteorological Society participated in the event.

NOAA image of IBM supercomputer.Operational numerical weather prediction models are essential for meteorologists to make weather forecasts. "The February 17-19, 2003, East Coast winter storm prediction, which was issued five days in advance, and the prediction of Hurricane Isabel making landfall, also five days ahead of time, are just two examples of stellar achievements based on the evolution of operational numerical weather prediction models and the ingenuity of many scientists and forecasters over the past 50 years," said Louis Uccellini, director, NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction and co-chair of the symposium. (Click NOAA image for larger view of IBM supercomputer. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”

"We have had many successes, but more needs to be done," Uccellini said. "Scientists continue to push the envelope to bring new solutions to today's weather and climate perplexities by applying global satellite data to weather, climate, ocean, and ecosystem prediction, engaging and advancing an ensemble-based approach to quantify forecast uncertainties, and providing extended day forecasts to the public."

NOAA image of IBM supercomputer.The symposium included remarks by such legendary scientists as Norman Phillips and Frederick Shuman, along with a salute to pioneers Jule Charney, George Cressman, and Joseph Smagoninsky, who all worked to transform numerical prediction from an idea to a functional reality. A select number of students and other researchers from area universities and from around the world showcased their work in weather and climate studies at a workshop. (Click NOAA image for larger view of IBM supercomputer. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)

In the United States, operational numerical weather prediction started on July 1, 1954 at the Joint Numerical Weather Prediction Unit (JNWPU), staffed by the U.S. Weather Bureau, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy. U.S. civilian and military organizations had a vested interest in weather prediction. Many historians and scientists note one of the main reasons the modern computer advanced so rapidly was the early use of computers used for weather forecasting. "In fact, meteorology is among one of the most demanding and intensive computer applications," said Uccellini.

From the very beginning, weather forecasting has been a primary, highly visible application for computers," said Stephen Lord, director of the NOAA Environmental Modeling Center. "Today's sophisticated models provide extremely realistic weather forecasts, almost beyond the dreams of the JNWPU pioneers."

At NOAA, operational numerical prediction models produce a significant amount of weather information from a huge variety of observations taken many times a day over the entire globe. "Today, NOAA's supercomputer takes more than 130 million pieces of data daily and makes forecasts over more than six billion cubic miles of atmosphere over a global atmosphere approximately 30 miles deep. The supercomputer generates approximately 450 billion calculations per second, which delivers NOAA National Weather Service products in a timely way for all users," said Lord. NOAA uses the latest in reliable, high performance computers to accomplish this task, as well as developing all of the models to an increasingly high level of accuracy to meet society's ever greater demands for weather and climate information.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nationís coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Environmental Modeling Center

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction

Symposium on the 50th Anniversary of Operational Numerical Weather Prediction

NOAA to Commemorate 50th Anniversary of Computer Weather Modeling

Media Contact:
Carmeyia Gillis, NOAA Climate Prediction Center, (301) 763-8000 ext. 7163