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Madhurika returned in the fourth game of the tie to secure a 3-0 (11-3, where a supercomputer named Gaea after the Earth goddess of Greek mythology can perform more than 1100 -trillion -calculations a second I watch as Lin types a simple one-line command: "msub C_1536_0801_e76" Those keystrokes transmit a set of initial parameters to Oak Ridge and instruct Gaea to launch the experimental FV3 model It will take 80 minutes to complete the full 10-day run of the model In other words every eight minutes it looks one day further into the future When Lin shows me some results I learn a bit of bad news about the Fourth of July holiday thats a week away "This is hot" Lin says scanning the map "This is pretty hot" Indeed his model has things sweltering in large swaths of the country a heat wave that did indeed come to pass To understand FV3 you first need to know how weather-forecasting models work First a computer creates a mathematical picture of the current state of the atmosphere based on real-world observations of air pressure temperature and moisture from the multibillion-dollar global infrastructure of satellites radar weather stations and sounding balloons Next using equations that describe the movement of air the computer crunches numbers to step forward in time-calculating what the atmosphere will look like a few minutes in the future Keep feeding those numbers back into the equations and you can predict further out in time Its all governed by the laws of physics much the same way a video game can simulate the arc of a basketball thrown across an imaginary court People come out to visit the flooded areas near their homes following Hurricane Harvey in Houston on Aug 29 2017 Marcus Yam—LA Times/Getty Images What Lin and his team have done is devise a better more accurate way for the computer to organize that picture of the atmosphere and how it behavesthe so-called dynamical core of the model While the current American model uses a "spectral model" where the atmosphere is represented by mathematical waves FV3 ("Finite Volume on a Cubed-Sphere") divides the atmosphere into boxes Each box of air might be a little different in temperature humidity pressure and movement Each box also acts upon the other boxes touching it and vice versa This models the atmosphere more accurately Lin is proud of this work and believes that FV3 will significantly up the US meteorology game "One of our main goals is helping NOAA and the nation have the best forecast humanly possible" he says "But its certainly a competition around the world" Americas lagging prediction model is especially dangerous when you consider that disaster preparedness is as much a psychological exercise as a technological one The general public now has more access to weather-forecast information than ever before From weather geeks glued to their smartphone apps to ordinary citizens tuning- in to nonstop cable-TV coverage theres surprising awareness of discrepancies between the US and European models-and experts worry this is leading some amateurs to choose the predictions- they like best and disregard official advice on evacuations and precautions Like Walters emergency–management expert Craig Fugate has struggled to get the public to take American predictions seriously Fugate now the chief emergency management officer of One Concern an artificial-intelligence startup focused on disaster preparation and management spent nearly eight years running the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) beginning in 2009 and is perhaps best known for coining the "Waffle House Index" to diagnose the severity of a disaster (If Waffle Housea chain restaurant known for staying open even in difficult conditions-is closed things are really bad) A onetime paramedic Fugate served in a number of county and state emergency-management roles before FEMA including director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management under Jeb Bush Fugate still recalls vividly the destruction from Hurricane Charley in 2004 "Were looking at this little speck of a storm thats so rapidly changing" he says It wound up rapidly intensifying surprising forecasters by surging to Category 4 just before landfall in Florida He remembers flying in a helicopter over the devastated areas just afterwards to survey the damage "You could see right where it went over Orlando" he says There were 10 direct fatalities and an estimated $15 billion in damage costs in the US Better forecast accuracy and a longer lead time would have been vital during Charley "The more confidence we have the more we can get people to do things early" Fugate says "Youre -willing to make the decisions days out where you can affect the outcome" When computer models generate conflicting or -low–confidence predictions forecasters generally must err on the side of safetythat is they overwarn rather than underwarn Overpreparationmoving supplies mobilizing workers for -overtimeis costly and carries its own variety of danger "If you cry wolf and nothing happens thats a dilemma" Fugate says Fuel public distrust of forecasts and more lives could be lost The constant comparisons with the European model obscure the fact that US weather forecasting is remarkably goodand getting better all the time In fact our ability to forecast the weather at this level of accuracy could easily rank as one of the great scientific achievements of the past century Take the daily NWS forecasts for high and low temperatures for instance One-day forecasts-the temperatures expected tomorrowfrom the past few years are off by only 2F to 3F In 2017 a five-day forecast had the same level of accuracy as a three-day forecast from 15 years ago Our ability to look further into the future is consistently expanding Even statistics like those dont reflect the real-world impact from forecast improvements When some 4000 of the nations meteorologists and weather professionals gathered at an annual meeting in Austin earlier this year they commemorated something of a milestone: despite the historic nature of the 2017 hurricane season the death toll in Texas (from Harvey) and Florida (from Irma) was surprisingly low below 100 in each case Second only to Katrina in damage cost Harvey hit the Texas coast as expected It stalled for four days dumped over 60 inches of rain and caused severe flooding Despite warnings that Maria would hit Puerto Rico emergency responders were not prepared The entire island lost power clean water and cell service Five days before hitting Florida models showed Irma going east As it veered west so too did evacuation orders All told a third of Floridians were mandated to leave These victories werent simply a matter of accurately projecting the track of the devastating storms They also underscored growing confidence in forecasts reliability Emergency officials are now willing to activate response plans well in advance (The path of Hurricane Maria experts say was well forecast; the fatalities in Puerto Rico are more indicative of the -difficulty of evacuating on an island and the woefully insufficient disaster response) In the case of Irma Florida Governor Rick Scott was persuaded to declare a state of emergency six days before the storms predicted landfall when it was still more than 1000 miles away "Our confidence level is building to the point where we can actually start talking about the potential storm system as a hurricane even before it develops" says Uccellini the NWS director "We were actually preparing for Irma … while it was still a wave coming off of Africa" In 1997 48-hour forecasts of hurricane tracks were off an average of 150 nautical miles Last year the track error was down to 56 miles And the cone of uncertainty familiar now to most from hurricane–forecast maps has been shrunk by 15% from five years ago and more than 30% from 10 years ago Despite all of that progress Superstorm Sandy was a wake-up call for US weather forecasters The European models superiority at forecasting the superstorms path in 2012 shook up the weather community When Congress approved additional budget in the aftermath it included some $80 million in supplemental funding for the NWS largely to pay for expanded super-computer capacity to improve the performance of the computer models NOAA and the weather service also launched an effort to overhaul the main model itselfa process that led to the selection of FV3 as the new dynamical core Some weather experts say the US still isnt doing enough to get better Cliff Mass a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington is one of the best-known and most outspoken critics of the NWS He panned -NOAAs decision to select Lins approach for the model and says the nations weather research and forecasting spread among centers across the country is too diffuse in sharp contrast with the tightly focused work by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts "The Europeans work together" Mass says "They have an organized strategic way of doing this" Now that NOAA has locked in Lins model Mass wants to see a commitment to ongoing improvementsa sentiment shared by Lin himself "The way you catch up to the other guys" Lin says "is to keep improving faster than them" Large waves produced by Hurricane Irma crash into the end of Anglins Fishing Pier in Fort Lauderdale Fla on Sept 10 2017 Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images There are advances underway well beyond computer-model upgrades and in many cases the US defines the cutting edge GOES-16 a new weather satellite that was launched in 2016 and became operational late last year is providing unprecedented imagery of storms and the atmosphere and can even observe lightning from space which can help improve tornado-warning lead times (A sister satellite launched this year GOES-17 is now in a testing phase and has suffered some technical problems but is also sending back astounding views) NOAA expects to eventually improve the reliability of forecasts 30 days out and even advance overviews of the entire hurricane season On May 24 NOAA issued its 2018 Atlantic hurricane–season forecast predicting a 70% chance of 10 to 16 named storms of which five to nine could become hurricanes including one to four major hurricanes-a near or above-normal outlook With the first day of school just a few weeks away Alan Walters is keeping a close eye on those outlooks back at his Georgetown County schools office "The more notice we can get the better" he says He just hopes that whether those storms require a cancelled football game or mass evacuations the families of South Carolina heed the warnings Contact us at editors@timecom On the day after hopes for a mandatory US cap on greenhouse gases evaporated a new report by the World Resources Institute delivers a timely message: Using existing federal state and local programs and rules could deliver deep reductions in US carbon emissions It won’t be easy the group says requiring "go-getter" ambition and enforcement but approaching President Barack Obama’s stated goal of reducing climate pollution by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 is "technically feasible" A rainbow of federal and state rules standards and programs could deliver up to 25 billion metric tons of cuts in greenhouse gas pollution per year the report said Power plants could yield the biggest cuts Under a regime using the Clean Air Act that the Obama Administration has already begun to roll out the rules could cut as much as 800 million metric tons of emissions annually by 2030 Efficiency standards for cars light trucks and most SUVs also coming from the Environmental Protection Agency could yield another 300 or so million metric tons by then Some big cuts could come with relatively little effort Using existing rules just a "lackluster" effort to cut HFCs which are mostly unregulated coolants found in cars and refrigerators could yield a whopping 240 million metric tons of reduced emissions by 2030 Aggressive enforcement of existing standards or regulations on refineries factories and aircraft would have a meaningful though smaller impact the report notes State action counts the report says Without aggressive enforcement of state rules standards or pacts—roughly half the states are members of regional cap-and-trade initiatives for example—the United States could achieve only a 12% cut below 2005 levels by 2020 With aggressive state action the savings grows to 17% The authors who hadn’t planned to release the report on the day after the climate bill collapsed say that existing rules and standards aren’t sufficient If Congress doesn’t create a declining cap on emissions they warn the on-the-books rules can only go so far From a Q&A with them: With all the reductions you found that can be achieved by federal and state legislation is a federal cap on emissions still necessary Yes The bottom line is that we need legislation As the analysis shows only legislation can get us the needed emissions reductions Only 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