The Northwest Regional Modeling Consortium

New summaryNWd

A paper describing the Northwest Modeling Consortium
and the NW Environmental Prediction System


       Operational high-resolution environmental prediction over the Pacific Northwest has been sponsored by a consortium of local, state, and Federal agencies.  Each agency recognizes its need for detailed weather information or forecasts and that by combining resources and talent we could accomplish what was impossible to do alone.  The activities of the consortium include:

  • The creation of one of the highest resolution operational weather prediction systems in the U.S at the University of Washington built around the Penn. State/NCAR mesoscale model (MM5) and  the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model.
  • The purchase and maintenance of a 915-mhz radar wind profiler with RASS temperature sounding capability that is located at the NOAA Sand Point facility in Seattle.
  • The gathering of real-time observational data from operational networks in the Northwest to create a detailed description of atmospheric conditions over the region.
  • Running regional air quality and distributed hydrological forecast models coupled with the WRF.
  • The production of smoke, ventilation, and fire control guidance driven by WRF output.
  • Running a regional ensemble prediction system (UWME) and an Ensemble Kalman Filter (EnKF) system.
  • History

          The Northwest Consortium began in the early 1990's when a group of agencies recognized the lack of upper air data over the Puget Sound basin.  By pooling funds, five agencies were able to purchase a Radian 915 Mhz profiler in 1992.  By the mid 1990's, research at the University of Washington and elsewhere suggested that high resolution mesoscale weather prediction models could be run on workstations, and that the results for Northwest weather features were quite promising.  In 1994 the Consortium provided funds to the University of Washington for an evaluation of the MM5 over the Pacific Northwest and the purchase of a powerful single processor workstation.  With promising results, this activity led to the beginning of operational MM5 forecasts (single 27-km domain) in 1995.  In 1996 the Consortium purchased a SUN 4000 with 14 processors.  With greatly increased computer power, during late 1996 a new model configuration was established:  36 km grid spacing over the eastern Pacific and 12-km over the Northwest.  A year later, upgrades to the processors allowed the enlargement of the 36 and 12 km domains, and the additional of a 4-km domain over the western half of Washington State.   In 1999 and 1999 substantial improvements were made to the modeling system and work on forcing a distributed hydrological prediction system  with the MM5 were began.  In the latter year a 4-processor Alphaserver was acquired, allowing the 4-km domain to be expanded to the entire State of Washington.  During mid-2000, a SUN 6500 server with 23 processors was acquired and the 4-km domain was expanded to include both Oregon and Washington.  The additional computer resources allowed the initiation of an regional ensemble forecasting system in which the MM5 was run several times using different large scale initalizations/boundary conditions and varying physics.  Also in 2000, a real-time effort to run the CALGRID air quality model forced by the MM5 was begun.   In addition, smoke,ventilation, and fire products driven by local data assets and the MM5 have been added. During the past five years, signficant improvements in the output graphics, model physics, and web site have been made, and the ensemble system has been expanded.  A key infrastructure change was the shift from the SUN system to commodity servers using AMD and Intel chips. A parallel WRF system was initiated in 2006 and in February 2008, the high resolution prediction system was moved to WRF, including a substantial expansion of the 4-km domain and the extension of 4-km domain to 72h.  More recently, an Intel Nehalem cluster with 8 nodes (dual quad core) and infiniband backplane was acquired and a 4/3 km inner nest was added that goes to 48h.  The UW consortium system now has over 200 terabytes of RAID disk storage.

       In addition to the modeling effort, considerable emphasis has been placed on gathering all available Northwest telemetered networks to create a dense, real-time observational data base for use in forecasting, verification, and research.

    Consortium Membership

        Current members of the consortium include:

    Contributing Members

  • National Weather Service
  • University of Washington
  • Washington State University
  • City of Seattle
  • USDA Forest Service
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Washington State Department of Ecology
  • Puget Sound Clean Air Agency
  • Washington State Department of Transportation
  •  Seattle City Light
  •  Idaho Department of Environmental Quality
  • Iberdrola Energy
  • Washington State Department of Natural Resources
  • Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
  • Current Major Computer Assets

    1. MM5-NAM: 4-processor Intex Xeon Linux box.
    2. WRF-GFS: Eleven 8-processor Intel Xeon cluster running Debian Linux (Note, 6 of the 8 processors are used for the 4-km run, since very little is gained by running with all 8. Keeping 2 available on each machine also allows for short research runs or make-up runs to be run concurrently with the real-time run with a small impact on that run. For the 4/3-km domain, all 8 processors on 11 machines are used.).

    Consortium Meetings

    The chair of the Northwest consortium is Robert Elleman of the Environmental Prediction Agency Region 10 (Seattle office).

    His contact information is:, 206-553-1531.

    The Northwest Consortium meets quarterly at the NOAA facility in Seattle.  Typically, the air quality subcommittee meets in the morning, with the full meeting during the afternoon.