Helping Business Weather the Storm

WDT Predicts Thunderstorms for Beijing Olympics

by Daphne Thompson, on Aug 12, 2008 2:37:14 PM

New Forecast System Provides Olympic Managers with Precise Information on Weather Hazards

Norman, OK - August 12, 2008. Weather Decision Technologies, Inc. (WDT) is the only private company invited to participate in a special weather system designed to predict severe weather conditions for the Beijing Olympics. WDT is part of the Forecast Demonstration Project, sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization's World Weather Research project and is providing a thunderstorm forecasting technology called the McGill Algorithm for Precipitation Using Semi-Lagrangian Extrapolation (MAPLE).

The predictions from WDT's MAPLE system are being used in conjunction with predictions from the other systems to help the Olympic forecasters convey short-term weather hazards and other information to managers at the many Olympic venues around Beijing.

WDT's MAPLE solution uses past data from Doppler weather radars to make predictions on the location and intensity of areas of precipitation and thunderstorms in Beijing. The purpose of MAPLE is to ingest data from the four Doppler weather radars that cover the Beijing region and to give predictions of storm coverage, location, intensity, and rainfall amounts out to four hours in the future.

WDT has licensed the MAPLE technology from McGill University of Canada and has been using MAPLE both domestically and internationally for several years.

"The purpose of the Forecast Demonstration Project is to demonstrate how the latest technologies in short-term (0-6 hours) weather prediction can help the forecasters responsible for the 2008 Olympic Games make decisions," said Mike Eilts, President of WDT, Inc. "The systems installed in Beijing have been developed in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Canada, and the USA," said Eilts.

The Olympic period in Beijing runs from August 8th to August 24th. During this period there is above a 25 percent chance of having a thunderstorm over the city of Beijing on any given day. This is a stark contrast to the thunderstorm chances at the two previous summer Olympic sites of Athens in August, 2004, and Sydney in September, 2000, where thunderstorm activity was not nearly as big a threat during those time periods as it will be in Beijing.

The metropolitan area of Beijing is on a flat plain located at the foot of the Yan Shan mountain range that extends west and north of the city. Beijing is at an altitude of only 30 meters above sea level and is open to the south and east to the influx of very warm moist air. Significant forecast challenges present themselves in the vicinity of Beijing in response to this very humid air impinging on the nearby mountains. Thunderstorms frequently initiate over the mountains and move to the southeast. Sometimes these storms dissipate before reaching Beijing but other times they grow and organize into major squall lines. A variety of factors and many unknowns play into the forecasting equation.

Along with participating in the Beijing Olympics Forecast Demonstration Project, WDT scientists have also implemented forecast systems as part of the Atlanta, 1996 and Sydney, 2000 Olympics.

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