How Good are Computer Wind and Weather Models?

Introduction  You can overlay a computer model of winds and compare it with actual weather data to see how good the model is. This is known as "ground truthing."
How are computer models like these made? 
What would make a computer model more accurate or less accurate?

GOES-5ModeledWinds.jpgGEOS-5 Modeled Winds 

GEOS-5 Modeled Winds show a computer simulation of winds in the tropopause, the boundary between the troposphere (near the ground) and the stratosphere.  This boundary is about 4-7 miles above the Earth's surface.  It is where jet streams, where wind speeds can be 120-250 mph, occur.  This simulation is for the dates 9/1/2006 - 3/17/2007.

Check out:
A) Tilt the globe so you can see the South Pole.  The circular wind pattern keeps warmer air from reaching Antarctica, one of the reasons it is so cold.

B) Look at North America.  You can see the jet stream move air from west to east. It also separates the cold Arctic air to the north, and warmer air to the south. There are times and places where the jet stream dips down, almost to the Gulf of Mexico.  That makes for extremely cold weather in the parts of the U.S. that lie to the north of the jet stream.

(Dataset 371)

RealTimeLinearIR.jpgReal-time Linear IR -

Next, overlay Realtime Linear IR. It shows the weather patterns over the past 30 days.  It does not cover the same dates as the Modeled Winds (above).  However, the overall wind patterns are pretty consistent.

A) Show the Realtime Linear IR to show the weather patterns for the past 30 days.

B) Point out weather here in Colorado for the past week or so.  This helps visitors connect what they see on the Sphere with reality.  Also, if there are any major weather events, such as hurricanes, point these out as well.

C) By moving the transparency sliders, adjust things so you can see both datasets at once.  You can see the striking parallels between the computer model and what is actually taking place.  It is particularly evident near Antartica.

(Dataset 55)


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