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Virtual Rains Herald Dawn of New Climate Understanding
This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science.
Weather prediction is hard enough. But what are the possibilities for
predicting events related to weather?
With new tools being developed at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center
in Greenbelt, Md., and NASAs ever increasing suite of Earth
observations, scientists just might be on the road to estimating future
A recent real world example suggests just how valuable this kind of
information could be. Following the devastating season of wildfires in
the western United States, many questions remain. Could officials have
predicted the conditions for the severity of last summers fire season,
and therefore planned differently?
At Goddard, experts are developing a system that someday soon might
be useful in making those predictions. Oceanographer Dr. David Adamec
and a team of earth scientists and others are using satellite
measurements and conventional temperature readings of the oceans to
drive an advanced computer simulation depicting seasonal to annual
changes in the land and atmosphere.
The goal of the research is to use the model to forecast real world,
short-term climate trends. Weve essentially constructed a climate in
cyberspace, said Adamec. With the kind of dedicated digital horsepower
at our disposal, this model goes far beyond anything available to the
Adamec says the simulation churns its digital winds and pelts the
electronic ground with simulated rain inside the heart of a Cray T3E
supercomputer. Although some years old now, NASAs T3E is still one of
the fastest systems in the world.
The above image shows the results of one such simulation.
Brown and green colors represent soils that are drier (brown)
or wetter (green) than normal. Water vapor is shown by increasing