Low pressure

The National Weather Service says an area of low pressure is expected to form several hundred miles south or southwest of Bermuda during the week of May 20, 2019.

Jeff Orrock and his staff at the National Weather Service's Wakefield bureau have been anxiously awaiting the day they could take advantage of extensive improvements to one of the major models they use to forecast the weather.

That day was today.

"It's been a priority, but it's been a while coming," Orrock said. "It's going to be interesting to see how it works with a lot of our coastal storms. It should definitely be an improvement."

Over the past three years, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been working on getting the American Model to perform better.

Orrock said for the last few years the National Hurricane Center has been much more accurate with track forecasting of tropical storms. But the new system will bring increased confidence in intensity and rainfall.

"Those have been tricky in the past," he said. "This is a big deal."

The American Model — technically called the Global Forecasting System — is a computer program that takes bits of information like temperature, humidity and wind and generates a variety of predictions. The weather service uses the American Model in conjunction with others, like the European Model, to come up with its forecasts.

Over the years, the European Model has had the best results.

The folks at NOAA are hoping these new changes will put the American Model back on top. 

"The significant enhancements to the GFS ... are positioning the U.S. to reclaim international leadership in the global earth-system modeling community," Neil Jacobs, the acting NOAA administrator, said in a conference call Wednesday morning.

Jacobs added that the improvements will provide a better foundation for future additions and changes he said would come at a much faster pace than the nearly four decades it took to upgrade the forecasting system.

Brian Gross, director of the Environmental Modeling Center at NOAA, said scientists programmed three years worth of data into the new system to see if it would produce different and more accurate results.

He said it was positive across the board.

Lee Tolliver, 757-222-5844, lee.tolliver@pilotonline.com

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