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Engineers week and the computer models

Posted by David Epstein  February 22, 2013 11:06 AM

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As you know I use models to help me forecast the weather. Over the past several decades our computer models have gotten a lot better and we now can forecast quite accurately days in advance. While we still might have trouble with the rain/snow line, we are not often surprised anymore by a storm simply going out to sea or slamming into the area without warning.

This is National Engineers week. Here in New England we are fortunate to have several companies that, behind the scenes, are helping get weather information to the public on a daily bases. In Andover, Massachusetts, Weather Services International (WSI) is one of the leading providers of software to television stations all across the country. The software programs that are behind the graphics systems you see on TV could very well have been developed at WSI. Back in the early 90s, I worked in quality assurance at WSI testing weather software systems before they were sold. WSI takes the complicated data the models produce and makes it graphically friendly for the public.

Raytheon, another Massachusetts company plays a key role in weather forecasting. The Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) is used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service (NOAA/NWS) to ingest, analyze and disseminate operational weather data including time-sensitive, high-impact warnings. viirs imaging.jpgFor nearly a decade, Raytheon has been NOAA’s partner for the operations, maintenance and evolution of AWIPS, providing the integrated mission services required to sustain and enhance system performance.

According to Raytheon, "AWIPS plays a critical role in the ability of U.S. forecasters to make weather predictions that can save lives and safeguard property. It’s a complex network of systems that ingest and integrate meteorological, hydrological, satellite, and radar data. Forecasters at more than 130 weather forecast offices and river forecast centers across the nation utilize the capabilities of AWIPS to make increasingly accurate weather, water, and climate predictions, and to dispense rapid, highly reliable warnings and advisories."

The photos that some of this new technology is able to produce is nothing short of stunning. A new program the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) is the latest generation of U.S. polar-orbiting satellites designed to monitor global environmental conditions and collect and disseminate data related to weather, atmosphere, oceans, land and near-space environment. Blizzard of 2013.jpgThese new satellites are operated and controlled by via Raytheon's Common Ground System (CGS) which was developed for both NASA and NOAA.
Next time you are watching the weather on TV or someone sends you a really cool picture from space there was probably an engineer helping to make it all possible.

I update the forecast and latest gardening tips on Twitter at @growingwisdom please send me your comments.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

David Epstein has been a professional meteorologist and horticulturalist for three decades. David spent 16 years at WCVB in Boston and currently freelances for WGME in Portland, ME. In 2006, More »
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