The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is underway in Las Vegas, Nevada, serving as the perfect backdrop for the latest announcements and showcases in new technology –including in the field of meteorology. At the event, IBM unveiled their new weather forecast model, known as GRAF.
GRAF, short for Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System was unveiled by The Weather Company unit of IBM. The Weather Company is the data and analytics arm of IBM that powers the digital assets of the Weather Channel including the Weather.com Mobile App and the Weather Underground website. The Weather Company also provides data to The Weather Channel, which was sold in early 2018 to Entertainment Studios. The Weather Channel is merely a client of The Weather Company even though weather content is nearly entirely sourced by it.
IBM Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty announced GRAF at CES 2019 in Las Vegas to much fanfare, showing off the power of IBM’s POWER9-based supercomputers. The new weather forecast model uses crowdsourced data from millions of sensors worldwide and in-flight data captured by aircraft to create what IBM says will be more localized, more accurate views of weather on a global basis.
“Today, weather forecasts around the world are not created equal, so we are changing that,” said Cameron Clayton, general manager of Watson Media and Weather for IBM. “Weather influences what people do day-to-day and is arguably the most important external swing factor in business performance. As extreme weather becomes more common, our new weather system will ensure every person and organization around the world has access to more accurate, more finely-tuned weather forecasts.”
Modern weather forecast models examine areas that are roughly 12-15 kilometers wide, considered too wide to capture many localized weather phenomena; data isn’t released very frequently either. Global forecast models, such as the American GFS and European ECMWF, also only release forecast data every 6 to 12 hours. According to IBM, GRAF will provide 3-kilometer resolution that updates hourly, delivering reliable predictions for the day ahead. By delivering forecast outputs more than 12x more frequent than the European ECWMF and resolution 4 times greater than the American GFS, IBM hopes to revolutionize the weather model forecast space.
Model data from the GRAF will become available later this year. Clients and subscribers from IBM’s The Weather Company, will have access to the data. Beyond The Weather Channel, IBM hopes retailers, insurers, airlines, and utility companies will be among many new users of their service and data.