Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                         CONTACT:
April 21, 1997                                   Michael Schneider
                                                 Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Discover Honors Storm Forecasting Research

PITTSBURGH -- Computer software that can reduce property loss by billions of dollars annually and save innumerable lives is a finalist for the 1997 DISCOVER Awards for Technological Innovation. Developed by researchers at the University of Oklahoma, using resources at Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, the innovation is a computer forecasting system that improves the timeliness and accuracy of severe storm forecasts.

Current forecasting gives about 30 minutes warning for severe storms, with fairly imprecise information about extent and severity. The new system, the Advanced Regional Prediction System (ARPS), can provide up to six hours warning with improved information.

"What we're getting down to," said University of Oklahoma scientist Kelvin Droegemeier, "is to say that over Pittsburgh this afternoon from 3:30 to 3:50 there will be a thunderstorm with winds of 30 miles per hours, golfball-sized hail, two-and-a-half inches of rain, and by 3:50 it will be gone. And to give you that forecast six hours in advance."

Droegemeier directs the Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms, a National Science Foundation science and technology center at the University of Oklahoma, which since 1988 has worked to develop ARPS. In tests carried out the past four years during spring storm season, radar data from Oklahoma fed supercomputers at Pittsburgh, which ran ARPS and sent forecast information back to weather forecasters in Oklahoma. In 1996, ARPS successfully forecast storms on eight of the 10 days they occurred, an unprecedented success rate.

Based on these successes, American Airlines funded a three-year effort to develop ARPS for use in daily airlines operations, which could reduce industry losses of more than $250 million annually from flight rerouting caused by storms.

More information, including graphics, about this research is available on World Wide Web: http://www.psc.edu/science/droeg.html

The editorial panel of DISCOVER magazine chose ARPS as one among five finalists for the 1997 award in the category of Computer Software. There are a total of 35 finalists in eight categories, chosen from 4,000 nominees worldwide. Now in its eighth year, the DISCOVER awards honor innovations in science and technology that affect everyday life. Winners will be announced May 31 at Epcot, the Disney theme park devoted to science and exploration. The gala Academy Awards-style ceremony will be carried live on the Internet.

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, a joint effort of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh together with Westinghouse Electric Corp., was established in 1986, with support from the National Science Foundation, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and other funding sources.

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