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New weather super computers to help Hawaii, United States catch Europe

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

In weather prediction size apparently does matter, as in the size of your computer. For many years the United States forecasting system has been dominated by Europe's system but that's about to change.

You'll recall the damage and destruction Super Storm Sandy caused last October on the East Coast. That storm was also a wakeup call because the European forecasting system predicted it would directly hit to New Jersey eight days in advance. At that time the United States system said it would miss completely and go out to sea.

"It's not even close. Their forecasts are better worldwide," said Professor Cliff Mass, University of Washington Atmospheric Sciences. "We've been dealing with 10 percent of the computer power and the result is we have not been state of the art. Our models are not as good, there is not as much resolution and their skill is not as high and that can all change now."

Because of Hurricane Sandy Congress is spending $24 million to upgrade the National Weather Service super computers with higher resolution and greater accuracy.

"The computer power that they are going to gain will allow them to do much better. We're talking about getting the precipitation better on the Windward side of the Big Island versus the Leeward side near Kona, that kind of stuff," said Professor Mass. "Hawaii is the kind of place that will particularly benefit because having much better global models, and a much better idea what is happening over the oceans and what is approaching the islands and then be able to predict detail much better what the mountains on the islands are going to do to the weather. That's the kind of skill that will improve with these new computers."

"If we don't want to fall farther and farther behind then it's definitely important to increase our forecast ability with that computer model," said Robert Ballard, National Weather Service Science & Operations Officer.

Meteorologists look forward to getting their hands on the super computer's data and helping the community.

"We want everyone to be a weather ready nation and in order to do that having the best computer modeling system at our disposal is really important," said Ballard.

If all goes according to schedule the new super computers should be fully implemented by 2015.

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