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A man walks along the Tidal Basin on the National Mall in March. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is about to roll out the new version of its main weather forecasting model next monthbut it won't help the agency gain much ground against its international rivals for the title of having the world's most accurate weather model.

Why it matters: Weather forecasting today relies on numerical prediction models that simulate the current and future state of the atmosphere. If the most commonly used computer model is off target during high-impact weather events, it can affect the larger economy and possibly even cost lives.

  • NOAA, for example, has estimated that 3%–6% of U.S. GDP is sensitive to weather variability.

Driving the news: The new version of the Global Forecasting System — a model known as the GFS-FV3 — will roll out in mid-June, acting NOAA administrator Neil Jacobs tells Axios. That's after an unexpectedly lengthy trial run in which problems were discovered in how the model handles snowfall projections.

While it should result in more accurate projections, testing shows it's unlikely to make up much ground against two of NOAA's forecasting rivals: the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts and the U.K. Met Office.

  • The U.S., in other words, will still be in 3rd place even after the upgrade, Jacobs says.
  • However, Jacobs, who previously led the weather modeling group at Panasonic Avionics Corporation, says it's what is under the FV3's hood that counts. He says it will mark the beginning of a shift "that will drastically improve the skill” of U.S. forecast models from here on out.

Background: The public narrative that U.S. forecasting models are inferior have their roots in Hurricane Sandy, which struck the East Coast in 2012. The GFS failed to anticipate the storm's westerly turn into the New Jersey coast several days in advance, while the European model advertised that historically improbable outcome a week out.

  • Ever since, NOAA, working with Congress and the White House, has been trying to obtain the resources needed to catch up to other countries.

A big hang-up so far has been how the U.S. spread out its model development across agencies and research institutions without centralized oversight, including among centers within NOAA that did not collaborate despite being in the same agency.

What's next: Jacobs has big plans for changing how NOAA develops its computer models, with the goal of shifting code out of the agency and into the commercial cloud, where it can be used by university researchers and the private sector to help improve it and spin off new products.

  • “We will set ourselves up to essentially crowdsource forecast model development work,” Jacobs says, noting that before, NOAA built models that could only be run on its own machines.

NOAA also suffers from the perennial plight of every public-facing meteorologist: No one recognizes the agency when it gets the forecast right, but they are quick to point out when they screw up.

  • Jacobs says other weather agencies, including the ECMWF, are better at touting their forecasting skill: “We don’t claim the wins. We’re not actively out there saying look how good we did."

Go deeper: 5G spectrum and the potential weather forecasting apocalypse

Go deeper

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.

Bush labels Clyburn the “savior” for Democrats

House Majority Whip James Clyburn takes a selfie Wednesday with former President George W. Bush. Photo: Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images

Former President George W. Bush credited Rep. James Clyburn with being the "savior" of the Democratic Party, telling the South Carolinian at Wednesday's inauguration his endorsement allowed Joe Biden to win the party's presidential nomination.

Why it matters: The nation's last two-term Republican president also said Clyburn's nod allowed for the transfer of power, because he felt only Biden had the ability to unseat President Trump.

GOP research firm aims to hobble Biden nominees

Alejandro Mayorkas. Photo: Joshua Roberts/AFP via Getty Images

The Republican-aligned opposition research group America Rising is doing all it can to prevent President Biden from seating his top Cabinet picks.

Why it matters: After former President Trump inhibited the transition, Biden is hoping the Republican minority in Congress will cooperate with getting his team in place. Biden hadn't even been sworn in when America Rising began blasting opposition research to reporters targeting Janet Yellen and Alejandro Mayorkas.