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Effective Weather Forecasts Approaching the Developing World

Better Weather Forecasts Coming to the Developing World

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Monsoon forecasts in India
Monsoon forecasts in India, according to the current model, left & the new, higher resolution, right. VOA

As more extreme weather takes its toll around the world, computer giant IBM says it is making a breakthrough in precision weather forecasting available to everyone. The company said the new high-resolution forecasts bring a level of precision previously available only in major industrialized countries.

It is expected to help emergency managers better predict where severe storms will strike, as well as aid airlines planning flight paths and farmers tending crops. Not to mention commuters deciding whether to carry an umbrella.

The new system generates forecasts more frequently and with finer details than what’s available outside the United States, Europe and Japan.

Most forecasts have a resolution of 10 to 15 square kilometers and update every six to 12 hours. IBM’s Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (GRAF) goes down to 3 square kilometers and updates every hour.

“That’s providing a level of detail that we’ve not been able to see in parts of the world such as Southeast Asia, Africa as well as South America,” said Kevin Petty, director of science and forecasting at IBM-owned The Weather Company.

That precision can reveal details of where and when extremely heavy rain will fall. That could be useful in emergency situations, as well as more mundane events. It could help farmers decide when to plant, harvest and fertilize, for example.

Weather forecasts & Lightning
Lightning bolt travels from the cloud to the ground behind the building. Pixabay

Better forecasts around globe

“I think it’s a pretty large achievement,” said University of Oklahoma emeritus meteorology professor Fred Carr, who was not involved with the project.

The United States has a similar high-resolution system, “but it’s just for the U.S. because it takes so much computer time,” Carr said. “To do it for the whole globe is a pretty significant achievement.”

The Weather Company’s Petty said, “We are just now getting to the point of having the level of computational power to do this.”

GRAF runs the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s state-of-the-art open-source weather model on high performance supercomputers.

Forecasts are only as good as the observations that go into them, Carr said.

Finding, filling the gaps

It’s possible to quickly collect observations from radar, airplanes and surface measurements in the United States, he added, but it’s not apparent how IBM gets data from the other 98% of the globe, especially in areas that currently don’t have extensive weather systems.

Animated weather forecasts
This image shows Animated Version of Weather Forecasts. Pixabay

Carr said he suspects “there’s gonna be gaps, or failures, or problems sometimes in getting those data in. So, sometimes those forecasts aren’t going to be very accurate.”

Users will be able to decide for themselves. The system now runs on Weather.com and The Weather Channel smartphone app.

In the future, IBM hopes to improve its forecasts by collecting data from atmospheric pressure sensors that are now standard equipment in smartphones.

These sensors improve the accuracy of GPS. They can help fitness trackers calculate how many flights of stairs the user has climbed, for example.

ALSO READ: Human-Induced Climate Change Makes El Ninos and La Ninas Extreme.

IBM said it is not currently using this data but plans to offer users the opportunity to opt in.

This kind of data collection from tech companies has drawn scrutiny from privacy advocates. The city of Los Angeles is currently suing IBM for improperly using location information from Weather Channel app users. (VOA)

Next Story

More Students From Fake University In U.S. Arrested, Deported

International students who said they were attending a university have been arrested in Michigan on immigration charges

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DHS & ICE created the University to expose weaknesses in the student visa immigration process
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer looks on during an operation in Escondido, Calif. A sweeping expansion of deportation powers unveiled this week by the Trump administration has sent chills through immigrant communities and prompted some lawyers to advise migrants to gather up as much documentation as possible. Pay stubs, apartment leases or even gym key tags to prove they’ve been in the U.S. VOA

More international students who said they were attending a university that was actually a shell created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have been arrested in Michigan on immigration charges in recent months.

DHS and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) created the University of Farmington to expose weaknesses in the student visa immigration process, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Helms wrote in a sentencing memo, as reported by the Detroit Free Press. The paper broke the story last spring.

“While ‘enrolled’ at the university, 100 percent of the foreign citizen students never spent a single second in a classroom. If it were truly about obtaining an education, the university would not have been able to attract anyone, because it had no teachers, classes or educational services,” the memo said.

While the students were granted student visas to enter the U.S., they were in violation when they did not actually attend the school, federal agencies said. Of about 250 people arrested, more than 200 students voluntarily left the U.S., and 50 stayed until being arrested or deported, the Free Press reported. ICE officials said many of the students were from India.

Students in University
Group of students studying in Library of a University. Pixabay

The paper reported that some students — claiming they were entrapped by the U.S. government, which operated the fake university — hired attorneys to defend their right to stay.

It remains unclear what happened to the tuition and fees paid by the students. It cost approximately $12,000 to enroll in the fake school, the Free Press reported.

ALSO READ: China Alerts Students About Studying in United States

Last winter, eight people were arrested and indicted for conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit. Federal agencies said those charged helped at least 600 “foreign citizens to illegally remain, reenter and work in the United States and actively recruited them to enroll in a fraudulent school as part of a ‘pay to stay’ scheme.”

After conviction, the eight were sentenced to between 12 and 24 months. They face deportation after they serve their terms. (VOA)