Inside a weather modeling system: What can go wrong?

A weather forecast for North America, and the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans
Jun. 26, 2024

5:30 – 7:00 pm MDT

NSF NCAR Mesa Lab and Online

Born alongside the computer in the 1950s, weather models have continuously evolved to safeguard lives. Forecasters rely on these intricate simulations to predict hazards, while researchers use them to untangle the complexities of weather. Yet, even with immense computing power, perfect forecasts remain elusive. Why? When do these models stumble? These very questions fuel the field of numerical weather prediction, where scientists relentlessly push the limits of predictability and refine the tools that guide our daily forecasts.


In this Explorer Series Lecture, NSF NCAR scientist Dr. May Wong will talk about what goes into a numerical weather prediction modeling system from the initial state of the atmosphere to the prediction output, what makes forecasting the weather with these modeling systems so challenging at times and how scientists work towards improving them to extend our ability to forecast the weather as we enter a world where being able to plan for more extreme weather conditions is more important than ever.

May Wong

Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Laboratory, NSF NCAR

Dr. May Wong is a project scientist in the Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Laboratory at NSF NCAR. Her research focuses on the practical predictability of deep convection and ways to improve its representation in models. Driven by her interest in numerical modeling techniques, she has worked on topics related to explicit scalar and subgrid-scale hydrometeor transport schemes, sensitivity of prediction skills to initial conditions, and improving model error diagnosis. To help disentangle sources of model errors related to convection, she uses data assimilation systems and takes advantage of their inherent need to routinely evaluate short forecasts against assimilated observations. Within these systems, she implemented detailed model diagnostics to help track model behavior and identify fast physics errors in need of improvement.

Dr. Wong moved to Boulder, Colorado and joined NCAR in 2015 as a postdoctoral researcher after earning her Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science from the University of British Columbia in 2014 and spending a year as a postdoctoral scientist at the DOE Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.