Forecaster Says Bad Weather Predictions are No Joke

By Tom Bacon

Jokes about inaccurate weather forecasts are some of the oldest around. But a University of Washington atmospheric science professor says bad weather predictions are no joke.

Doctor Cliff Mass says the U.S. has slid into fourth place among nations in weather prediction. As he put it, "the country with the largest weather research community in the world is moving further back in the pack, with substantial costs to the American people". Mass blames the slippage on U.S. refusal to buy a powerful new weather super computer, even though it was funded by Congress more than a year ago.

On his weather blog, Mass crunched forecasting numbers over the past month, and found European, British and Canadian forecasts much more accurate than U-S predictions. Moreover, Mass said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which runs the National Weather Service is nervous about buying an IBM super computer because IBM sold its server division to Lenovo, a Chinese company.

Even though the federal agency has a long-term contract with IBM, Mass thinks there are ways around the impasse - for instance, to have IBM purchase a Cray computer for NOAA use. Or, as Mass put it - go ahead with the IBM deal, with full knowledge that there is little reason for the Chinese to mess with our weather forecast models.

He said there's no reason for the U.S. to be content with the 4th best hardware, with a capacity far inferior to state-of-the-art weather forecasting. Mass called it a national embarrassment.
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