Better Weather Forecasting

Florida State University researchers say they have developed a new weather forecasting system that's longer range and more accurate.

CBS News Correspondent John Roberts reports.

Ample warning that Hurricane Dennis would not make landfall but would then pound the coast for days would have been invaluable information for emergency officials. It's information researchers at Florida State University say they had.

"We were able to predict that Dennis would evolve and move and track very close to where it actually occurred, even back five or six days prior to the event," says Eric Williford of Florida State University.

They made that prediction with a new forecasting system called Super Ensemble, a computer that crunches data and forecasts from nearly a dozen different sites around the world. The result amounts to longer range and far more accurate forecasts.

"Indeed, we are doing better, meaning 20 to 30 percent better - in come cases even 100 percent better," says T. Krishnamurti of Florida State University.

They correctly predicted Hurricane Bret's move away from populated areas last month. And when past storms were analyzed by the computer, it was right nearly every time.

While tracking hurricanes was the original aim of the system, scientists have now found its superaccurate forecasting can be put to more mundane uses.

"It can be applied to daily weather over the whole globe, meaning just run-of-the-mill weather. It doesn't have to be a hurricane," says Krishnamurti.

The Florida State researchers say that could mean more accurate rainfall estimates - better warnings of floods and droughts. The National Weather Service agrees that it could be very useful in the future.

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