Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                         CONTACT:
June 5, 1997                                     Michael Schneider
                                                 Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Storm Forecasting Wins Discover Award

PITTSBURGH -- A storm forecasting system developed by University of Oklahoma researchers using resources at Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center won the 1997 Discover Magazine Award for Technological Innovation in Computer Software. This system, the Advanced Regional Prediction System (ARPS), can save billions of dollars annually in U.S. business and property loss as well as innumerable lives.

Presented on Saturday, May 31, in live ceremonies at EPCOT in Buena Vista, Florida, the award honors innovative technologies that "will revolutionize the way we live and work."

ARPS promises to dramatically improve timeliness and accuracy of severe storm forecasts. Current methods give about 30 minutes warning, with fairly imprecise information about extent and severity. In 1996 tests at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, ARPS predicted storms seven hours in advance with a high degree of accuracy.

"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 hour, 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 (CAPS), a National Science Foundation science and technology center at the University of Oklahoma, which since 1988 has worked to develop ARPS. One of CAPS major accomplishments has been to develop an innovative mathematical approach by which computers retrieve missing storm data, beyond what is picked up from radar sensors.

In tests carried out the past four years during spring storm season, 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 the location and timing of storms on eight of the 10 days they occurred, an unprecedented success rate.

Based on these successes, American Airlines has funded a three-year effort to develop ARPS for use in daily airlines operations, which could reduce airline 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:


Now in its eighth year, the DISCOVER awards honor innovations in science and technology in eight categories that include Aviation and Aerospace, Computer Hardware and Electronics, Environment, Sight, and Sound. The Academy Awards style presentation at EPCOT culminates a nine-month process. Discover editors select finalists from thousands of nominations worldwide. The expert panel of judges that selected ARPS as the 1997 winner for Computer Software included Anita Jones, director of research and engineering for the Department of Defense, and Marvin Minsky, MIT professor of computer science and a pioneer of artificial intelligence.

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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