For the age of global warming, IBM offers a super-specific, precise weather forecasting platform

November 15, 2019

Who better to predict what’s coming at us from the wild blue yonder than “Big Blue”— otherwise known as multinational computer colossus IBM?

The Armonk, New York-based tech company announced on November 14 that, along with its subsidiary, The Weather Company, it was rolling out a new supercomputer-driven weather forecasting system that “will provide fresher, higher quality forecasts in parts of the world that have never before had access to state-of-the-art weather data.”

According to the company’s press release, the platform—dubbed the  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.

IBM 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 (6.2-9.3 miles) and are updated every 6-12 hours. By contrast, IBM says, GRAF forecasts down to 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) and is updated hourly.

To date, this level of forecasting precision only has been available in the United States Japan, and a handful of Western European countries, the company says—noting that the launch of IBM GRAF marks the first time that such enhanced forecasts cover more of the 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.”

To build the new modeling system, The Weather Company collaborated with the National Center for Atmospheric Research to base the platform on NCAR’s next-generation open-source global model, the Model for Prediction Across Scales, which uses state-of-the-art science to forecast the atmosphere down to thunderstorm level on a global scale.

Research contact: @IBM