Contact: Carmeyia Gillis
NOAA News Releases 2005
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Brig. Gen. D.L. Johnson, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), National Weather Service director, and the heads of the Canadian and Mexican Meteorological Services recently signed ceremonial documents at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction in Camp Springs, Md., to demonstrate support for a new system that may improve forecasts for North America.

The signing ceremony kicked -off a three-day workshop on the North American Forecast Ensemble System led by NAEFS Project Manager for NCEP Zoltan Toth of NCEP's Environmental Modeling Center, and Jean-Guy Desmarais of the Canadian Meteorological Center of the Meteorological Service of Canada.

Ensemble forecasting uses an array of mathematical models of the earth-atmosphere systems using slightly different meteorological data known as Ainitial conditions@ to predict the evolution of weather systems. These initial conditions are obtained from large datasets of observations from many sources, including surface stations, aircraft, and satellites. Ensemble systems require the use of supercomputers due to the enormous number of calculations needed to produce forecasts in a reasonable time span.

The Meteorological Service of Canada and NOAA have been working together to develop NAEFS since early 2003. The National Meteorological Service of Mexico became involved with the system in October 2004.

"By working together on a combined ensemble prediction system, we will help improve forecasts for all North Americans on all sides of all borders," said Johnson who signed the ceremonial documents with Marc Denis Everell, assistant deputy minister of the meteorological service of Canada and Michel Rosengaus Moshinsky, unit head at the National Meteorological Service of Mexico.

"The North American Ensemble Forecast System is an excellent example of work being done today in support of the global Earth Observing System. The aim is to make 21st century technology as interrelated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects, providing the science on which sound policy and decision-making must be built," said Johnson. "This more efficient use of earth observations will ultimately mean better forecasts for everyone. Ultimately, this will help protect lives, properties and strengthen economies across the continent."

According to Louis Uccellini, NCEP director, NAEFS is Athe first formal attempt to join forces in the development of an international ensemble forecast system and its use throughout the countries of North America and beyond.

Following the NCEP ceremony, the Canadian documents were sent to Ottawa where Canada's Minister of the Environment, the Honorable Stéphane Dion, and retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator, announced Canada and U.S. joint efforts to improve the quality of weather forecasts in border regions, at a ceremony on the outset of an international earth observations conference. The NAEFS announcement comes at an opportune moment in North American history, as President Bush was also in Canada to meet Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin.

Canada and the U.S. have also agreed to collaborate more closely on air quality forecasting and monitoring. Both countries have pledged to increase their exchanges of the measurements, data, and knowledge that support their respective air quality forecast programs. This will result in better air quality forecast information for citizens on both sides of the border, so that they can make more informed decisions to protect themselves, their families, and the environment.

NAEFS is already creating an international buzz for future cooperation. The Met Office of the United Kingdom plans to join the NAEFS system in a few years, after their own ensemble forecast system becomes operational. Zoltan Toth added that a "future 'Northern Hemisphere Ensemble System' could also serve as a prototype component for a new Global Interactive Forecast System." GIFS will be fully developed during the coming decade as part of a major international research program, THORPEX (THe Observing system Research, and Predictability Experiment), under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization.