Weather service storm forecasts get more localized

September 30, 2014 by Seth Borenstein
These handout images provided by NOAA shows a comparison of two weather forecast models for the New Jersey area. At left shows the forecast that doesn't distinguish local hazardous weather. At right shows the High Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model that clearly depicts where local thunderstorms, yellow and red coloring are likely. The National Weather Service can now give better, faster and more pinpointed severe weather forecasts because of new computer simulations. The weather service on Tuesday started using a new high resolution computer model that officials say will dramatically improve forecasts of storms up to 15 hours ahead of time. They say the more rapidly updating simulations will save lives with better warning for tornadoes, thunderstorms and blizzards. (AP Photo/NOAA)

The National Weather Service can now give better, faster and more pinpointed severe weather forecasts because of new computer simulations.

The weather service on Tuesday started using a new high resolution computer model that officials say will dramatically improve forecasts for storms up to 15 hours in advance. They say the more detailed resolution and more frequent updates will save lives with better warning for tornadoes, thunderstorms and blizzards.

Meteorologist Geoffrey Manikin (MAN'-ih-kihn) says the old forecasts would have shown, for example, green blobs for storms over northern New Jersey. The new forecast will pinpoint small orange circles over specifics areas. The in-advance forecasts will look more similar to radar images.

Officials said two new supercomputers and five years of research make it possible for the upgrade in forecasts.

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