What Is Microcast?

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By Steve MacLaughlin on November 27, 2012, 7:30pm Last modified: November 28, 2012, 3:47pm

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If you watch News 8, you know that Storm Team 8 has a tool that is used in almost every weathercast called "Microcast." Microcast is a pretty amazing leap in technology considering that just twenty years ago, many stations were still using magnets and hand-drawn maps.

What Microcast does is take a very complicated computer model, the models we use each night off-air to figure out the weather, and creates a very easy-to-understand map. Green is rain. Blue is snow. Pink is a mix and white is clouds. Just like the satellite and radar, only this one goes out into the future. For 72 hours out into the future, we can show every storm moving across the country and more importantly, moving into Connecticut. We can follow precip that begins in California as it moves across the Rockies, into the Gulf and up the East Coast.

Microcast is like any model we use...it's not always right. This creates a problem for us weather people because if we are showing Microcast on the air, we sometimes need to explain to viewers that the models might be a little off or wrong altogether. But what we try to do each night is not show one Microcast run and say this is what WILL happen, rather to show our viewers how Microcast is evolving over the course of a few days. Is it consistent with itself and with other computer models we are not showing on the air? Is it trending in a certain direction the closer we get to an event? It it having trouble picking up really big weather systems already in place, therefore making our confidence 72 hours out very low? Just like many other models, updates come out every 6 hours, and when we start to see each run consistent with the last, we get very high confidence that Microcast is literally the best tool we have, not just to forecast the weather, but to show this forecast to viewers in the most simple way.

Microcast is amazing with large rain and snow storms; storms that begin in one place and move into Connecticut. It picks up the rain/snow line shockingly well and can time out big areas of low pressure from start to finish. Where Microcast fails is with convection. It can pick up cold fronts in the summer, but airmass thunderstorms are still something that don't show up well. You may notice in the summer, unless a cold front is coming thru, we use Microcast much less because it may show absolutely nothing when we know a severe tstorm could pop up at any time.

More than anything else, Microcast allows us to pinpoint exact times when weather is coming thru. Used to be we would say, "Rain begins tomorrow afternoon." Now, we can say, "Microcast shows the rain moving into Fairfield County at 2pm then moves east to New London County by 4pm." I know weather forecasting is still not perfect, but man, we have come a long, long way.

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Steve MacLaughlin

Town: New Haven, CT  

Reporting for WXedge since January 2012.

Articles: 122

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