Bigger Computers = Better Model Forecasts

Big weather news today!

The National Weather Service just announced they would be acquiring supercomputers with over 30 times the power  of the current generation within the next year!  This should level the playing field between the superior European ECMWF model and the Global Forecast System (GFS) models.  It took the Hurricane Sandy disaster on the East Coast to get the funding for the changes out of congress, but good news nonetheless.  It’s been well advertised not only in the meteorological community but in the media how terribly the American model performed versus the ECMWF not only with Sandy but on several other occasions.  The USA has just not been dedicating resources towards computing and it has finally caught up with us (and become a bit of a national embarrassment).


How about those supercomputers…what can they do?

Right now the NWS uses a system with 70 teraflops (70 trillion calculations per second).  Whoa…that’s fast, and it’s a room/rooms with many thousands of processors.  But within a year or two it should be up to 2600 teraflops!

I’m going to direct you straight to Professor Cliff Mass’s blog where he breaks it down in far more detail than I could:

Today was sure a chilly day, only 59 degrees in Portland which was our coolest day in over two weeks.  Not much rain though; no one in the metro area recorded more than .10″…my definition of a “drippy” day.

We should see some convection (rising motions leading to showers) over the hills/mountains and quite possibly over the  valleys tomorrow.  Probably not enough for hail/thunder, but there may be some brief downpours.  We’ll get these showers because we’ll see plenty of sunbreaks, in fact maybe just partly cloudy at times.  So even though it’ll be brighter with more sun and warmer temps on Thursday, it may end up being wetter in some locations.

I’ll admit I’m real bored with the weather pattern through Monday, very little going on with just a few showers or light rain here and there.

A little more interesting Tuesday and beyond next week as a cold upper-level trough settles over the Pacific Northwest for an extended stay (possibly through Memorial Day Weekend).  On the 00z GFS model you see it’s just about the coldest/deepest low in the whole western part of the northern hemisphere!


This setup in general would increase the chances for more active cold showers with hail/thunder.  It’ll also be quite chilly with 30s/40s at night and only upper 50s and lower 60s for daytime highs.

Models are in pretty good agreement on the cold upper level low next week, take a look at the latest 12z ECMWF and 12z GFS ensemble charts.



Well below average the middle of next week, then a slow recovery to normal near the end of the runs.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

19 Responses to Bigger Computers = Better Model Forecasts

  1. chiefWright (Marquam) says:

    Do you think they might finally model the gorge as something more than a 400′ pass in the cascades? Pretty please?

  2. Joshua in Lake Oswego says:

    Holy rain shadow! Every time I look at the radar, there is rain incoming and it breaks up or disappears just south of here. Weird.

  3. WX Ninja says:

    Apparently the disaster in NOLA wasn’t enough or should I say, wasn’t in a big enough city that was close to those in congress. While that is unfortunate, it is good to see that we are finally getting an upgrade.

  4. says:

    Thunderstorms this afternoon?????

  5. runrain says:

    My imaginary conversation between the Rose Festival and the Rose Festival Upper Level Trough:

    RF: Hey, dude, wake up! Where the heck are you? You were supposed to be here a couple weeks ago!

    ULT: Aw, man. I overslept. Sorry.

    RF: Yeah, what’s up with that? You’re usually down here in April and setting up shop off the coast for 2-3 months!

    ULT: I know. I saw all the nice weather you were having in PNW and hit the snooze button. Plus, I was having this AWESOME dream. Cute little 990mb low, compact isobars, all perpendicular to the Oregon coastline. She was heading due north just off the coast, just about to hit Astoria and then the alarm went off! REALLY wanted to get back to that dream…

    RF: Well, snooze time is over. Get your tail end down here. The ships will be in harbor in a couple weeks!

    ULT: Will do. Gotta pull in some cold air from Alaska, load up with moisture from the Pacific, etc. I’m assuming you want the same thing this year: lotsa clouds, rain on the Fun Center and the Parade?

    RF: Yes, but throw in a nice day for the Starlight Parade. Kinda gives folks a little false hope this time of year (heh, hed)

    ULT: OK. On my way. Can I ask one favor?

    RF: Fine. What is it?

    ULT: As a parting gift on my usual July 5th last day, can you find out about throwin’ a hot, little ULL from off the California coast my way? You know, one with a turbulent personality, lotsa towering cumulus, undulating mammatus….

    RF: STOP IT!

    • JJ97222 says:

      Remember the movie Ground Hog Day, last year we had two great weeks of weather in May also only to blown out by the RF LOW could this year be worse had to turn my heat again looks like it will stay on till we leave. More cold ahead looking forward to another indoor Memorial Day weekend with new snow in the mountains!

    • Mark Nelsen says:


    • Dave in South Salem (500') says:

      I rather hope to see some snow in the mountains Wednesday.

    • WX Ninja says:


  6. Josh in Sherwood says:

    With the model upgrade we can say good bye to the la la land teases. No more “it’s only 10 days away”. We’re doomed for boring model runs for the rest of our lives.

  7. schmit44 says:

    5/15/2013 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:80 at NORTH FORK MALHE(3270 ft) & Ontario Municipa(2188 ft)
    Low: 55 at Rye Valley(I-84(2230 ft) & John Day River B(305 ft)

    High:41 at Timberline Lodge(6001 ft)
    Low: 29 at CHLOQN (4231 ft ) & Sand Creek (US 9 (4525 ft ) & KIRK (4519 ft ) & ANEROID LAKE #2 (7300 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 41 degrees
    EW2055 Prairie C (75/34 ) (3547 ft )

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    0.28″ at HORSE CREEK(3402ft)
    0.26″ at YELLOWSTONE MTN.(3080ft)
    0.24″ at DW6048 Lebanon(575ft)
    0.24″ at BOULDER CREEK(3570ft)

  8. runrain says:

    I always thought teraflops were something you wore on your feet at the beach…

    Sure is cold this evening. Wanted to turn the heat in but won’t give in! Lows in the poss 30’s next week could have me thinking otherwise.

  9. karlbonner1982 says:

    Next week’s deep cold low is our divine comeuppance for planting so many tomatoes, peppers and corn during the early May warm period!

  10. Lurkyloo says:

    Bring on the teraflops!

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