Research and Application News
Using satellite observations of clouds to improve weather forecasts
30 July 2013
Clouds play a crucial role in regulating the Earth's weather and climate. They adjust the amount of solar radiation that reaches the Earth's surface and affect the surface temperature and moisture. The processes involved in cloud formation also influence large-scale atmospheric circulation and can lead to rapid storm intensification. To accurately forecast the evolving state of the atmosphere, it is important that meteorologists are able to realistically simulate cloud information in weather prediction models.
However, due to their complexity, the evolution of clouds and their interactions with the surrounding atmosphere are often poorly understood by atmospheric scientists, and thus remain a major source of uncertainty in weather forecast models.
One of the first scientists interested in clarifying these uncertainties using satellite observations is Jason Otkin, an atmospheric scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After devoting many years to studying cloud properties and evolution processes using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model, he is working to improve the way the WRF model handles clouds. More accurate depictions of clouds will improve forecasts of high-impact weather events.