BoM unleashes more accurate weather predictions

Fires, floods and hurricanes will be predicted more accurately with the introduction of a data modelling system by the Bureau of Meteorology, which can deliver precise seven-day predictions.

Available in New South Wales and Victoria since 2009, the system, which is part of the Gillard government’s $45 million Next Generation project, will be rolled out in Tasmania, South Australia, Queensland and other states by 2013.

Weather and oceans services forecaster, Terry Hart, said the modelling system brings a number of benefits, including more accurate predictions and less data entry.

“It frees meteorologists up from typing numbers into a database so they can analyse weather patterns,” he said.

The system also updates prediction algorithms developed during World War I, which are still used by meteorologists.

“The Graphical Forecast Editor pre-populates forecasts with predictions based on raw data and uses graphics to do this,” Hart said.

“Previously, a meteorologist had to work out the prediction themselves and write out the information for each suburb. This model changes meteorologists from writers to painters.”

He said meteorologists will enter data into global data models to produce weather patterns for Australia. Other weather predictors, such as hydrologists, will use the system to track rainfall and the likelihood of flooding.

Hart said that once the rollout is complete, anyone will be able to access the information via the bureau website using a digital map.

“They can click on areas to see precise and specific data,” he said. “It means residents in rural areas can have weather specific to their region, which varies tremendously.”

The system was used during the Victorian Black Saturday bushfires in February 2009 by emergency services to track winds.

Hart said media outlets have also begun to show interest in using the information during television weather bulletins.

The modelling system is run using the bureau’s $30 million supercomputer. It follows a similar data modelling project to improve water resource information, implemented by the bureau in March 2010.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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