ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The federal government has upgraded the computer model it uses to predict the weather. NPR's Rebecca Hersher reports that climate change makes accurate forecasts increasingly important.
REBECCA HERSHER, BYLINE: If you live in the U.S., when you check the weather on your phone or tune in to the local TV weather person, the information you get comes from federal weather data. Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced upgrades to the computer model that generates that data. Louis Uccellini is the director of the National Weather Service. He says you can think of the model like a car engine.
LOUIS UCCELLINI: With today's upgrade, we are adding more horsepower to that engine and, actually, more upgrades to the entire car as we move forward.
HERSHER: The new model is better at predicting when a rain or snow storm will form, where it will go and how much precipitation it will dump. For example, earlier this month, a snowstorm hit the Boulder area. The previous weather model predicted up to 40 inches of snow, way more than actually fell. The new model did a much better job, and it was able to predict the storm earlier.
UCCELLINI: This is going to have a fundamental impact on the basis of the forecasts that are provided day to day.
HERSHER: The new model is also better at predicting where and when hurricanes will form and where they'll make landfall. For the first time, it includes data from the upper atmosphere, which is important for understanding hurricane tracks. The stakes are getting higher as climate change drives more severe weather.
Rebecca Hersher, NPR News.
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