An atmospheric model
is a mathematical model
constructed around the full set of primitive
dynamical equations which govern atmospheric motions, and supplements these equations with optional parameterizations for turbulent diffusion, solar and terrestrial radiation, moist processes including the formation and interaction of clouds and precipitating liquid and ice hydrometeors, sensible and latent heat exchange between the atmosphere, multiple soil layers, a vegetation canopy, surface water, the kinematic effects of terrain, and cumulus convection. Most of the atmospheric models are numerical, i.e. they discretize equations of motion and they are able, depending on type of the model, to predict microscale phenomena such as tornadoes and boundary layer eddies, sub-microscale turbulent flow over buildings and in a wind tunnel, as well as synoptic, and global flows. The horizontal domain of a model is either global
, covering the entire Earth, or regional
, covering only part of the Earth. Regional models also are known as limited-area
The forecasts are computed using mathematical equations for the physics and dynamics of the atmosphere. These equations are nonlinear and are impossible to solve exactly. Therefore, numerical methods obtain approximate solutions. Different models use different solution methods. Global models often use spectral methods
for the horizontal dimensions and finite difference methods
for the vertical dimension, while regional models usually use finite-difference methods in all three dimensions. Regional models also can use finer grids to explicitly resolve smaller-scale meteorological phenomena, since they do not have to solve equations for the whole globe.
Models are initialized
using observed data from radiosondes
, weather satellites
, and surface weather observations
. The irregularly-spaced observations are processed by data assimilation and objective analysis methods, which perform quality control and obtain values at locations usable by the model's mathematical algorithms (usually an evenly-spaced grid). The data are then used in the model as the starting point for a forecast. Commonly, the set of equations used is known as the primitive equations
. These equations are initialized from the analysis data and rates of change are determined. The rates of change predict the state of the atmosphere a short time into the future. The equations are then applied to this new atmospheric state to find new rates of change, and these new rates of change predict the atmosphere at a yet further time into the future. This time stepping
procedure is continually repeated until the solution reaches the desired forecast time. The length of the time step is related to the distance between the points on the computational grid. Time steps for global climate models
may be on the order of tens of minutes, while time steps for regional models may be a few seconds to a few minutes.
Some of the better known global numerical models are:
Some of the better known regional numerical models are:
- WRF The Weather Research and Forecasting Model was developed cooperatively by NCEP and the meteorological research community. WRF has several configurations, including:
- * WRF-NMM The WRF Nonhydrostatic Mesoscale Model is the primary short-term weather forecast model for the U.S., replacing the Eta model.
- * AR-WRF Advanced Research WRF developed primarily at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) WRF Source Code
- NAM The term North American Mesoscale model refers to whatever regional model NCEP operates over the North American domain. NCEP began using this designation system in January 2005. Between January 2005 and May 2006 the Eta model (began in Yugoslavia (now Serbia) during the 1970s by Zaviša Janjić and Fedor Mesinger)used this designation. Beginning in May 2006, NCEP began to use the WRF-NMM as the operational NAM.
- RAMS the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System developed at Colorado State University for numerical simulations of atmospheric meteorology and other environmental phenomena on scales from meters to 100's of kilometers - now supported in the public domain RAMS source code available under the GNU public license
- MM5 the Fifth Generation Penn State/NCAR Mesoscale Model MM5 Source Code download
- ARPS the Advanced Region Prediction System developed at the University of Oklahoma is a comprehensive multi-scale nonhydrostatic simulation and prediction system that can be used for regional-scale weather prediction up to the tornado-scale simulation and prediction. Advanced radar data assimilation for thunderstorm prediction is a key part of the system. The source code of ARPS is freely available
- HIRLAM High Resolution Limited Area Model
- GEM-LAM Global Environmental Multiscale Limited Area Model, the high resolution (2.5 km) GEM by the Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC)
- ALADIN The high-resolution limited-area hydrostatic and non-hydrostatic model developed and operated by several European and North African countries under the leadership of Météo-France (ALADIN Community web pages)
- COSMO The COSMO Model, formerly known as LM, aLMo or LAMI, is a limited-area non hydrostatic model developed within the framework of the Consortium for Small-Scale Modeling (Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Poland and Greece).