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New IBM weather system to provide global forecasting

IBM has announced a global weather forecasting system that uses IBM POWER-9 supercomputers to deliver hourly forecasts at this year’s CES conference in Las Vegas.  

IBM’s global weather forecasting system uses crowdsourced data from millions sources which is then used to create rapidly updated local forecasts. Dubbed the IBM Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (GRAF) IBM notes the service will provide a nearly 200 per cent improvement in forecasting resolution for much of the globe (from 12 to 3 sq km) when compared to existing models. It will be available later this year.

‘Today, weather forecasts around the world are not created equal, so we are changing that,’ said Cameron Clayton, general manager of Watson Media and Weather for IBM. ‘Weather influences what people do day-to-day and is arguably the most important external swing factor in business performance. As extreme weather becomes more common, our new weather system will ensure every person and organisation around the world has access to more accurate, more finely-tuned weather forecasts.

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

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-kilometre 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-kilometre 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 aircraft, overcoming the lack of specialised 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.

Predictions from the new system will be made available globally later in 2019 for users of IBM’s The Weather Channel app, weather.com, Weather Underground app, wunderground.com – and any business that uses IBM’s subsidiary The Weather Company. 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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