Just weeks after unveiling significant performance upgrades to the systems that handle American computer forecast guidance, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released today the first version of user-friendly code for medium-range computerized weather prediction to the public. Featured in an open, collaborative development environment, this new approach of collaborating across the weather enterprise is an effort to engage the community to improve NOAA models using the Unified Forecast System (UFS). The UFS is a community-based, coupled, comprehensive Earth modeling system. According to NOAA, the UFS numerical applications span local to global domains and predictive time scales from sub-hourly analyses to seasonal predictions.
NOAA is the agency tasked with providing the official weather and climate forecasts and warnings in the United States; organizations like the National Weather Service, the Storm Prediction Center, and the National Hurricane Center are all part of the NOAA organization.
The UFS community includes researchers, developers and users from NOAA, educational institutions, federal agencies, and the private sector. The UFS supports research and development in the community and accelerates the transition of research successes to operations.
“Sharing NOAA’s model code with the broader scientific community will help us accelerate model advancements — with the ultimate goal of co-creating the best operational numerical prediction system in the world,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator. “We invite researchers and modelers around the world to download and work with the code, so together we can advance numerical weather prediction to improve life-saving forecasts and warnings.”
The success of UFS will be bolstered by NOAA’s Earth Prediction Innovation Center (EPIC). EPIC will ensure that the UFS efforts are facilitating research and development in the research modeling community whose efforts can then be targeted to make improvements in operational forecasts.
“At the National Weather Service, we are excited about this first step to make operational model codes available to scientists and students around the world, knowing that they will help advance our unified forecast system that will provide the basis for all of our weather, water and climate forecasts,” said Louis W. Uccellini, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s National Weather Service.
UFS will enable NOAA to simplify its production suite of forecasting models from many independent systems, each of which has to be improved and maintained separately, to a single seamless modeling system with fewer, more comprehensive applications. UFS applications, which each provide guidance for a particular forecast, span local to global domains and predictive time scales from sub-hourly analyses to seasonal predictions.
The first release of a UFS application is the UFS Medium-Range Weather Application version 1.0, which targets predictions of global atmospheric behavior out to two weeks. The software is now distributed and maintained through GitHub, and the release of additional applications are planned in the coming year. NOAA will host workshops and provide supportive documentation alongside the applications to facilitate its use by the broader community. Collaborating researchers can use the application in real-time and promising research code will be considered for inclusion in future versions of the operational model. Future releases of model code will enable the research community to continue to advance them for operational use. NOAA and the modeling community also worked together to ensure the code is ready for use by students at the graduate level.