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NOAA launches new forecast to assist proactive flood response

NOAA and its partners have developed a new forecasting tool to simulate how water moves throughout the US’s rivers and streams, ‘paving the way for the biggest improvement in flood forecasting the country has ever seen’.

Run on NOAA’s powerful new Cray XC40 supercomputer, the National Water Model uses data from more than 8,000 US Geological Survey gauges to simulate conditions for 2.7 million locations in the contiguous United States. The model generates hourly forecasts for the entire river network. Previously, NOAA was only able to forecast streamflow for 4,000 locations every few hours. 

The model also improves NOAA’s ability to meet the needs of its stakeholders — such as emergency managers, reservoir operators, first responders, recreationists, farmers, barge operators, and ecosystem and floodplain managers — with more accurate, detailed, frequent and expanded water information. 

“With a changing climate, we’re experiencing more prolonged droughts and a greater frequency of record-breaking floods across the country, underscoring the nation’s need for expanded water information,” said Louis Uccellini, Ph.D., director of the National Weather Service. “The National Water Model will improve resiliency to water extremes in American communities. And as our forecasts get better, so will our planning and protection of life and property when there’s either too much water, too little, or poor water quality.”

Initially, the model will benefit flash flood forecasts in headwater areas and provide water forecast information for many areas that currently aren’t covered. As the model evolves, it will provide ‘zoomed-in,’ street-level forecasts and inundation maps to improve flood warnings, and will expand to include water quality forecasts.

The underlying technology for the model was developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). NOAA developed and implemented the model along with NCAR, the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and federal Integrated Water Resources Science and Services Consortium partners.

More details.


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