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Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP)

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Definition:

The process of using mathematical equations to estimate the atmosphere's state at some point and time in the future. This is possible because the atmosphere is a fluid. Its motions and forces can therefore be expressed using equations of thermodynamics and fluid dynamics.

The set of equations used to represent the atmosphere's governing processes include:

  • the equations of motion (conservation of momentum),
  • the thermodynamic equation (conservation of energy),
  • the continuity equation (conservation of mass),
  • and the equation of state.

Since each are differential equations (meaning, they describe a rate of change over a specified time), when current weather observations are used as input, the result is an estimate of the future state of an atmospheric condition--that is, a forecast.

NWP calculations are done by powerful supercomputers housed at the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). The computer programs responsible for generating NWP forecasts are known as forecast models.

Also Known As: NWP, Numerical forecasting
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