Pinpoint forecasting could be meteorology's future
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CNN) -- A group of researchers in Vancouver believe they may be onto a breakthrough in the never-ending quest for more accurate weather forecasting. And they've got the perfect testbed for the new technology: their own home turf.
Meteorologists say Vancouver -- where mountains meet urban skyline, industries bank on rich natural resources, and weather can change in an instant -- is the most difficult place in Canada for weather forecasting.
The problem lies in the terrain and the lack of weather data from the Pacific Ocean, where Vancouver's weather originates.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia are developing a system for more accurate short-term forecasts at pinpoint locations based on weather data processed by high-powered computers.
They use the data to zoom in, predicting weather for areas as small as two miles (3 km).
"The weather forecasts are very important for industry and people," says University of British Columbia researcher Roland Stull.
For example, the ski industry wants to know about snow and possible avalanches. The tow operators pulling log booms in the area's straits and waterways are concerned about winds. ( 303 K/14 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
"If the winds are too strong, it could tear apart their log booms," Stull says.
The amount of detail used by the forecasters results in more accurate, more realistic forecasts and reduces the chance that clients will be surprised by weather events.
Doug McColler of B.C. Hydro says such forecasting makes it possible to prepare in advance and save money for his company.
In a few years, the researchers say, such enhanced forecasting could cover all of North America, or even the world.
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