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Published February 28, 2012, 08:16 PM

What Goes in to Predicting a Major Winter Storm

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - Meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Grand Forks are busy tracking the winter weather as it moves north.

By: David Schwab, WDAZ

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - Meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Grand Forks are busy tracking the winter weather as it moves north.

They're at their stations monitoring weather data streaming in from a number of places including weather balloons, surface reports and flights.

"Every Fed Ex airplane and commercial airplanes that takeoff or land at any airport along here, a lot of them are instrumented now so that they can actually take a meteorological sounding meaning wind direction, wind speed, temperature and humidity," NWS meteorologist Greg Gust said.

The communication room is an good example of the glut of data coming in that is used to build a forecast.

"Basically we are looking at satellite feeds, grided data, radar data from other offices in Canada, other observation data all pulled together," NWS meteorologist Mike Lukasz said.

"Those numbers are flying into the computer. The computer is ingesting them. We have a lot of computer processes going on in the background and we have to slice and dice those numbers to recalculate the potential for things," Gust said.

Some of the images known as weather models are made with the data. They're used to help meteorologists determine things like possible snow amounts, temperatures as well as when and where a snowstorm will hit.

"We can look at each of those models and there are several of them and we have to balance the model depictions about what could happen to actually come up with a forecast," Gust said.

Gust says they also have to talk to the National Weather Service offices in Bismarck, Aberdeen and Minneapolis to make sure forecasts are consistent and accurate.

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