Weather forecasting under Project NOAH

By Dr. Gerry Bagtasa

I am sure that all followers of this site coming from the Philippines are familiar with project NOAH.  In case you aren’t, NOAH stands for Nationwide Operational Assessments of Hazards, the Philippine’s flagship program on disaster prevention and mitigation by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

There are currently nine projects under the NOAH program, a couple for sensor development, several geo-hazard / flood mapping projects which also includes the DREAM (Disaster Risk and Exposure Assessment for Mitigation) lidar planes, and two weather forecasting projects.

ClimateX, the first of the two weather forecasting projects, gives a 4-hr lead time probability of precipitation (POP) forecast for places covered by the doppler radars of PAGASA. Although technically a nowcast, ClimateX actually was developed even before NOAH and is one of the primary features of the NOAH site when it was launched in June of last year.  ClimateX’s POP forecast is done by analyzing the trail of rain clouds seen on the most recent doppler radar observations, it then predicts the movement or advection of rain clouds in the next 4 hours.

Currently, the project NOAH website shows probability of rain or POP forecasts by ClimateX and for the time being, a 4-day weather outlook from weather-manila.com.  Weather-Manila is a mesoscale deterministic weather forecast site that I developed in 2012 where I run a numerical weather prediction model every 6 hours driven by GFS model with a 11km grid scale resolution for the whole Philippines.

noah_wm2

Weather outlook and doppler radar data overlay

Since early this year, another official weather forecasting project under NOAH called NOAH-WISE, or Weather Information-integration for System Enhancement, in which I am one of the project proponents, is in the works.  NOAH-WISE’s output will be a high-resolution (3km resolution) 7-day weather forecast for the Philippine archipelago.  In order to accomplish the huge amount of computation needed in such high-resolution modeling, the NOAH-WISE project is working with IBM Philippines on running a weather model in a supercomputer called Blue Gene/P.  PAGASA also plays a big part in this project.  DOST’s procurement of the Blue Gene/P supercomputer is a result of a public-private partnership agreement with IBM to jointly build a Philippine System and Technology R&D lab.

Aside from a high-resolution forecast, having a supercomputer will also enable us to do ensemble forecasting.  Moreover, by using the hundreds of automated weather station data deployed by project NOAH and assimilating these information in the weather model, we reckon that there will be much improvement in short to mid-term local weather forecasts in the Philippines.

Dr. Gerry Bagtasa of Weather Manila together with Dr. Gay Perez, both of Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology (IESM), University of the Philippines Diliman, are the project leaders of NOAH-WISE. 

This article was originally published in the Western Pacific Weather website on September 1, 2013

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