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IBM debuts supercomputer-driven weather forecasting system

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IBM has unveiled a supercomputer-driven weather forecasting system designed to provide higher quality forecasts in parts of the world that lack access to such data.

Working with its subsidiary The Weather Co., the Armonk-headquartered firm is offering IBM GRAF (Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System) as the first global weather model that runs operationally on a GPU-based high-performance server.

IBM GRAF weather
Image courtesy IBM

IBM GRAF can predict conditions up to 12 hours in advance and update its forecasts six to 12 times more frequently than conventional global modeling systems. While current global weather models cover a range of 6.2 miles to 9.3 miles and are updated every 6 to 12 hours, IBM GRAF forecasts down to 1.9 miles and is updated hourly.

IBM noted that while this level of forecasting precision has been available in the U.S., Japan and parts of Western Europe, the new technology marks the first time such enhanced forecasts can be made available across Asia, Africa and South America.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research collaborated on the creation of IBM GRAF, which is based on NCAR’s next-generation open-source global model, the Model for Prediction Across Scales.

“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 Co. 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.”

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