NOAA constantly strives to improve its models of our changing environment in order to provide citizens, planners, emergency managers, and other decision makers with reliable information they can act on. But improving models takes time, money, and labor—tight budget constraints make this a challenging feat.
Last spring, Governor Jerry Brown declared an end to California’s historic drought that caused over $5 billion in damage to agriculture as well as substantial impacts to fisheries, infrastructure, human health, and vegetation. The drought was not only severe, but it also spanned the winters of 2015-16 and 2016-17, which had unusual and unexpected precipitation that affected the drought’s evolution.
Meteorologists can tell you whether it will storm 10 days before your wedding, and climatologists can determine if you’re likely to have a hot and dry summer almost a year in advance. But the time period in between, known as the subseasonal to seasonal (S2S) timescale, has remained a major weather-climate prediction gap despite growing public demand.
Those long, intense plumes of moisture in the sky known as atmospheric rivers are a vital water source to communities along the U.S. West Coast. In their absence, desiccating droughts can develop. But in their presence, they can cause extreme rain and floods that can disrupt travel, cause landslides, and trigger infrastructure failures.
Predicting the weather a few days in advance is a complex undertaking. But what about the weather 3 to 4 weeks from now?
The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) - or "NOAA Research" - provides the research foundation for understanding the complex systems that support our planet. Working in partnership with other organizational units of the NOAA, a bureau of the Department of Commerce, NOAA Research enables better forecasts, earlier warnings for natural disasters, and a greater understanding of the Earth. Our role is to provide unbiased science to better manage the environment, nationally, and globally.