John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
An incredible data-crunching system predicts the storm’s future in incredible detail.
Who knew NASA had a Department of Preweather?
The space agency’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office has glimpsed the future of the Mid-Atlantic blizzard, and it is gorgeous (as long as you’re not in it). Using a supercomputer, the office simulated how clouds will likely swirl and flow until Sunday, with the blizzard crawling up the East Coast before screeching out to sea. As of now, the storm’s track has shifted slightly from earlier predictions, raising snow tallies for cities like New York (likely scenario: 16 to 22 inches) and Providence, Rhode Island (up to 6 inches).
Make sure to switch on 1080-HD before watching the video. Here’s NASA explaining how its experimental simulator works:
The NASA GEOS-5 atmospheric data assimilation system follows an historic winter storm as it approaches the mid-Atlantic this weekend 2016 January 22-24 where it is expected to produce a wide swath of more than 2 feet of snow. The near-real-time operational GEOS-5 system ingests more than 5 million observations every six hours producing comprehensive analyses and forecasts of the atmosphere each day at 25-km global resolution….
The simulated field visualized here is outgoing longwave radiation (OLR). Clouds block longwave radiation that is emitted from the Earth's surface producing cold OLR values in regions of thick/deep cloudiness. Thus, OLR provides a satellite-eye view of clouds from storm systems around the globe, including the developing blizzard across the eastern United States.