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ATMOSPHERE ACADEMY: Predicting rainfall


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- It's a common question: how much rain will fall when thunderstorms roll through on a given day? The answer can be a little hard to come by.

When it comes to weather, there's a government organization for everything, even rainfall prediction. Within the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center helps create precipitation guidelines. These products are called Quantitative Precipitation Forecasts, or QPF's for short. They utilize radar data, upper air analysis, satellite information in conjunction with computer forecast models to develop the numbers.

Local meteorologists may use this as a starting place for precipitation forecasts, but accurately forecasting rain totals is one of the hardest parts of meteorology. Remember: it's not just the intensity of the storm that makes a difference. It has a lot to do with speed of movement.

In the summertime, steering winds are often weak. So afternoon storms may develop and sit over the same areas for an hour or more, greatly increasing rain totals. We call this training. If that same storm were to be moving along at 20 or 30 mph, rainfall totals in a given area would be much less.

Just another reason why meteorology is such a tricky business.

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