NOAA launches new approach to accelerate innovation and new science in weather modeling

Partnership will make weather and climate modeling code public

NOAA is accelerating the advancement of numerical weather prediction — the backbone of life-saving weather and water forecasts in the U.S. — by sharing the first batch of computer code behind National Weather Service models with the scientific community.

Corridor of computer servers

Corridor of computer servers (Image credit: iStock)

Today, NOAA released the first version of user-friendly code for medium-range weather prediction 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 offsite link (UFS).

Sharing this code will enable academic and industry researchers to help NOAA accelerate the transition of research innovations into operations. This UFS code is being developed by a broad community and is openly available to the public, with documentation and support for users. In February 2019, NOAA and NCAR announced a partnership to design a common modeling infrastructure, marking NOAA’s shift toward community modeling. 

“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), made possible by Congressional authorization in 2019. 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 offsite link, 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.

UFS configurations that support particular forecast requirements are called applications. Each application combines a numerical model, data assimilation, post-processing, workflow, and other elements.
UFS configurations that support particular forecast requirements are called applications. Each application combines a numerical model, data assimilation, post-processing, workflow, and other elements. (NOAA)

On the heels of a major supercomputer upgrade announced in February and an upgrade to its Global Forecast System last summer, NOAA is pressing forward with this next step in the effort to build a true community weather forecast model and improve forecast accuracy to save lives and protect property nationwide.

Media contact
Lauren Gaches, 301-683-1327