There are three fundamental ways to improve weather forecasting: better observations of the atmosphere, improvements in computer models and a better physical understanding of the atmosphere.
The fall of 2016 will see the launch of the next generation of U.S. weather satellites. These satellites, referred to as the GOES-R series, will view Earth with 16 wavelengths, compared to the five wavelengths of the current satellite.
The satellite data will track and monitor cloud formation, atmospheric motion, development of convection, land surface temperature, ocean dynamics, atmospheric water vapor, volcanic ash plume, aerosols and air quality, and vegetative health.
It will continuously take images of the Western Hemisphere every 5 minutes.
It also has an alternative mode of observing where it can make a hemispheric image every 15 minutes along with an image of the continental U.S. every 5 minutes, and smaller, more detailed images of areas where storm activity is present, as often as every 30 seconds.
The National Weather Service’s primary computer was upgraded in 2015, increasing its previous computing capability by nearly a factor of 10.
This has enabled the weather forecast models to reduce the spatial and temporal resolutions, which lead to better predictions.
The improved computer power should also help with using the new satellite observations in initializing the computer model runs with better current weather data.
Improved physical understanding of the atmosphere comes about through research.
Current research directed at challenging problems includes seasonal predictions, tornado development, severe weather warnings and hurricane intensification.
We can expect to see improvements in these topics as well as how the atmosphere and ground exchange energy and the complicated details of how precipitation forms.
Such efforts represent a continuation of research programs that have lead, and will continue to lead, to improvements in weather forecasting.