Growing weather database sharpens NWS forecasting

Growing weather database sharpens NWS forecasting

Processing and streamlining vast amounts of weather data from thousands of sources is challenging, yet more sources do produce better forecasts.

As early as 2001, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration faced challenges integrating and using the weather data it collected. So researchers at the Earth System Research Laboratory created the Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System, or MADIS, to provide finer density, higher frequency observational weather data.

Since then the number of sources has exploded. NOAA currently receives weather information from 64,000 partners, including airlines, private companies, universities, state highway and agriculture departments and private citizens.

MADIS collects detailed information from sensors that pass real-time information to other devices and analytical systems without human intervention. It integrates this information from its partners, provides quality checks and organizes the observation data sets that include temperature, wind, pressure, humidity, soil temperature and many others.  It also distributes the weather observations from NOAA and non-NOAA organizations.

In late January, the MADIS system successfully transitioned to the National Weather Service, which will result in more accurate and timely weather forecasts. “This means that the National Weather Service will fully support the system, regularly monitor and update the information and ensure high quality useable weather observations are available seven days and week, 24 hours a day,” said NOAA MADIS researcher Greg Pratt. 

NOAA has not stopped there.  In fact, jt is continuing to build partnerships established through the development of MAIDS and expand its information sources to increase forecast accuracy. 

“To be of value to NOAA and the larger weather community, we will need to continue to add new sources of environmental data,” said Tim McClung, chief of the Science Plans Branch for the NWS.  NOAA’s Citizen Weather Observing Program, a public-private partnership, produces an additional 40 to 50 sources for MADIS per week.   

NOAA’s MADIS is not only a more efficient way to predict the weather, but it serves as an invaluable resource for preparedness. "MADIS data has proved incredibly helpful in increasing our overall awareness of major weather, especially wind, cold temperatures and storm systems,” said Chris Thompson, geographical information systems manager at the Virginia Department of Emergency Management Preparedness. “This information is so reliable, we use it every day and it helps us understand what’s happening with the weather so we’re able to respond appropriately to situations that arise.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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