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Today's weather forecasting is driven by global computer models. Using some of the most powerful computers on earth, these collections of programs apply the laws of physics to millions of pieces of data that describe the world's weather at any one time, and project the movement of air, temperature and humidity into the future. The enormous improvements in weather forecasting over the past 30 years are due to these models, improvements in the gathering of data such as satellites, and the expertise of meteorologists who build and interpret the models. In Australia, the models that provide the base for most forecasting are:
- ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting) -- often referred to as the EC, European Model, or "the Euro". Run twice daily out to 7 days. Technical details
- GFS (Global Forecast System) operated by the US National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) -- often referred to as "the US model". Run 4 times daily out to 7.5 days, and twice daily out to 16 days. Technical details
- GASP (Global AnalysiS and Prediction or Global Analysis and Spectral Prognosis) operated by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Run twice daily out to 7 days. Technical details
- JMA (Japan Meteorological Agency) operated by JMA. Run twice daily out to 5 days. Technical details
- LAPS (Limited Area Prediction System) operated by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Run twice daily out to 3 days. Technical details
- MLAPS (Meso-LAPS) is a higher resolution version of LAPS. Run twice daily out to 2 days. Technical details
- NOGAPS (Navy Operational Global Atmospheric Prediction System) operated by the US Navy. Run 4 times daily out to 7.5 days. Technical details
- TXLAPS (Tropical eXtended Area Prediction System) is a version of LAPS customised to describe the tropical atmosphere. Run twice daily out to 3 days. Technical details
- UK Met Unified Model operated by the British Meteorological Office - referred to as the UK model. Run twice daily out to 6 days. Technical details
- WRF (World Research and Forecasting Model) using the MM5 modelling system developed by Pennsylvania State University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. This is an open-source set of software and data that has been adopted by various organisations to provide forecast charts for anywhere on the globe.
- WAM (WAve Model) is related to GASP and produces wave and wind forecasts out to 6 days globally and 2 days regionally. Technical details
- WW3 (Wave Watch III) is a global wave-forecasting model operated by NOAA/NCEP. Technical details
For human consumption, output from these models is usually in the form of charts of which the most useful to the interested layman are the forecasts of surface pressure patterns, rainfall, and intelligible maps of what's going on in the upper air. Although care is needed in interpreting model output -- they all have their known strengths and weaknesses in different situations -- the layman will find that these charts offer far more comprehensive information about future weather than the public forecasts can hope to include. They are also an excellent (and practical) tool to help you learn about the weather, as they are completely interactive with what is happening right now!