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The weather models war will take place [Update]

I relayais in December 2018 an excellent issue published on the blog of our friends Geogarage, which are a permanent duty of a press review of the best foreign articles about mapping, meteorology, and generally all matters relating to marine navigation. Here is a translation freely adapted and commented in French.

The new American weather model shone during Hurricane Lane

It is well established that the European weather model IFS (¹) the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (²), produces an average of the most accurate weather forecasts in the world. For years, American model Global Forecasting System (GFS), managed by NOAA National Weather Service (³) , only ranked as the third.

The “also-ran” status of American GFS model has caught the attention of Congress, which has appropriated money to the Weather Service to improve USA’s weather modeling on multiple occasions. Already, after hurricane “Sandy” in 2012, whose final trajectory upon New York had been only anticipated by the European model, the US Congress, by an additional budget, enabled the NWS to make big progress with successful start to the GFS redesign early 2015 ().

In addition, the Trump administration has stated that building the best prediction model in the world is a “top priority.”.

The future forecast model FV3

A new analysis of model performance during Hurricane Lane, which unloaded historic amounts of rain on Hawaii’s Big Island, shows that the Weather Service may be making progress.

The NWS has developed a new version of GFS, known for FV3 (Finite Volume Cubed-Sphere dynamical core), which it touts as “its next-generation global prediction system”. While still considered experimental, the FV3 produced the most consistently accurate predictions of Lane's track. The NWS said :

“We obtained a Weather Service chart displaying the track errors for each of the models at different points in time. Track errors tend to be large for forecasts of the storm’s position several days into the future, but grow smaller with time”

  • The FV3 produced the most accurate forecasts (or lowest error path) made between four (96 hours) and five (120 hours) days in the future. It was neck and neck with the forecasts of the European model and the National Hurricane Center in 72 early hours.
  • The European model ECMWF included large errors in its forecasts four and five days, but he showed talent for which he is known within 72 hours (3 days).
  • The British model MET, which is the second most accurate model in the world, managed by the UK Met Office in Exeter office, has lagged the performance of forecasts of European models, Hurricane Center and FV3 at all times.
  • The current operational version of the US model GFS practically had the worst prediction of performance at every step.
  • The American model HWRF, which is a specialized model for hurricanes, also performed poorly, ranking second to last. Some of the input data from the GFS, which is why both models have comparatively poor performance.

Although the FV3’s results were very promising for Hurricane Lane, they reflect just one very limited case. To be convinced that this new modeling system could reduce the gap with the European model, we will need to see such performance repeated, storm after storm and in everyday weather situations, from the tropics to the poles.

[Update 12 June, 2019] This Wednesday 12 June,, GFS model-FV3 has just been announced as operational.

(¹) Integrated Forecast System, commonly called CEP
(²) In English : European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecast (ECMWF)
(³) U.S.. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
() New GFS grid 0.25° model



Author : Francis

Since 2009 independent IT trainer and consultant for boating. Translator of many navigation applications on iOS and MacOS. Professional in boating for over 25 years, I provide training for applications and consulting and assistance for the integration of mobile devices (tablets, smartphones) on pleasure boats.


  1. It must be recognized that Mediterranean GFS are sinking by WRF. Unfortunately in Thailand where I sail right now I do not know if and where to get the WRF!
    Thank you for this very rewarding Article! Cdlt

  2. Re: [Update 12 June, 2019]
    Do I understand it correctly that from now on when I download grib data based on GFS (in Weather4D 2.0 and others) it is effectively FV3 data? Or will apps will be updated upon.

  3. Hello,
    This appears to be great news if you look at the isolated case of this study, but there are similar studies (but statistics for once) on a greater number of comparisons and the most used settings (navigation at least) such as strength and wind direction at some point in time?