IBM Makes Higher Quality Weather Forecasts Available Worldwide

IBM Makes Higher Quality Weather Forecasts Available Worldwide

Foto: IBM

IBM and its subsidiary The Weather Company announced the global rollout of a new supercomputer-driven weather forecasting system. It will provide fresher, higher quality forecasts in parts of the world that have never before had access to state-of-the-art weather data.

Known as IBM GRAF, the Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System can predict conditions up to 12 hours in advance with detail and frequency previously unavailable at this global scale. GRAF will provide much finer-grained predictions of the atmosphere and update its forecasts six to 12 times more frequently than conventional global modeling systems. Current global weather models cover 10-15 square kilometers and are updated every 6-12 hours. By contrast, GRAF forecasts down to 3 kilometers and is updated hourly.

This level of forecasting precision has been available in the U.S., Japan and a handful of Western European countries. But the launch of IBM GRAF marks the first time such enhanced forecasts cover more of the globe, including Asia, Africa and South America, areas among the most vulnerable to the increasingly intense extreme weather resulting from climate change. GRAF is the world's first operational high-resolution, hourly-updating model that covers the entire globe.

"We view the launch of IBM GRAF as a true inflection point in forecasting science, where technology helps democratize weather data for the good of society," said Cameron Clayton, head of The Weather Company and general manager of IBM's Watson Media and Weather. "The enhanced forecasts could be revolutionary for some areas of the world, such as for a rural farmer in India or Kenya. If you've never before had access to high-resolution weather data but could now anticipate thunderstorms before they approach your fields, you can better plan for planting or harvesting."

Forecasting weather is a complicated mathematical problem, requiring high-performance computing to solve complex equations. Traditionally, most weather models use high-performance computers built only with CPUs. To handle its increased resolution and update frequency, the new GRAF system runs on an POWER9-based supercomputer optimized for both CPUs and GPUs, powerful compute engines widely deployed for demanding high-performance computing and AI applications.

Other models may be high-resolution or update often, but the resulting forecasts only cover one country or region of the world. This is the first time a full global model exists to provide forecasts for the day ahead at this scale, resolution and frequency. A clearer sense of exactly when and where impactful weather will surface can help when planning and preparing for weather. Whether it's an airline, a utility company, a daily commuter, a retailer, a government decision-maker, or a farmer, IBM GRAF predictions can help people, governments and businesses make more informed weather-related decisions.

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