IBM

IBM Weather System to Provide Vastly Improved Forecasting Around the World

New IBM global weather forecasting system can crowdsource data from millions of previously untapped sources and will provide accurate, rapidly updated local forecasts worldwide

IBM and its subsidiary The Weather Company unveiled a powerful new global weather forecasting system that will provide the most accurate local weather forecasts ever seen worldwide. The new IBM Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (GRAF) will be the first hourly-updating commercial weather system that is able to predict something as small as thunderstorms globally. Compared to existing models, it will provide a nearly 200% improvement in forecasting resolution for much of the globe (from 12 to 3 sq km). It will be available later this year.

GRAF uses advanced IBM POWER9-based supercomputers, crowdsourced data from millions of sensors worldwide, and in-flight data to create more localized, more accurate views of weather globally. IBM Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty announced GRAF at CES 2019 in Las Vegas.

“Accurate and timely communication of weather forecasts combined with AI, analytics, IoT, etc. can have a domino effect in helping consumers and businesses in India make faster, smarter decisions. With IBM’s powerful new global weather forecasting system we have a highly advanced and differentiated solution that will address long standing issues of data gaps, specificity and confidence in weather prediction for businesses and agriculture ecosystem.” Himanshu Goyal, India Business Leader, The Weather Company.

Today, outside of the United States, Japan and a handful of other countries primarily in Western Europe, the rest of the world has to settle for less accurate forecasts for predictions that cover 12- to 15-kilometer swaths of land – too wide to capture many weather phenomena. And, traditionally, leading weather models update less frequently, only every 6 to 12 hours. In contrast, GRAF will provide 3-kilometer resolution that updates hourly, delivering reliable predictions for the day ahead.

The new system will be the first to draw on untapped data such as sensor readings from aircrafts, overcoming the lack of specialized weather equipment in many parts of the world. It will also give people the opportunity to contribute to helping improve weather forecasts globally, as it will be able to make use of pressure sensor readings sent from barometers found within smartphones if people opt-in to sharing that information. The Weather Company will assure it conforms to the relevant operating system terms of use. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of weather stations, many run by amateur weather enthusiasts, can also contribute data to the model.

While the resulting volume of data would be too much for most supercomputers, this powerful new model analyzes data using IBM POWER9 technology, which is behind the U.S. Department of Energy’s Summit and Sierra, the world’s most powerful supercomputers.

Predictions from the new system will be made available globally later in 2019, helping airlines to better minimize disruption from turbulence; insurers to better prepare for storm recovery operations; utility companies to better position repair crews for outages; farmers to better anticipate and prepare for dramatic shifts in weather and more.

Individuals and communities will be able to better plan for weather. Anyone with The Weather Channel app, weather.com/in, Weather Underground app, wunderground.com – and any business that uses IBM offerings from The Weather Company – will be able to use these forecasts.

In addition to IBM’s unique R&D investments, this advancement in global weather forecasting is made possible by The Weather Company’s open-source collaboration with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). GRAF incorporates the latest-generation global weather model – the Model for Prediction Across Scales, or MPAS – which was developed by NCAR with the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

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