Research Tools: Simulation

NSSL researchers have created a computer model that can simulate a thunderstorm to study how changes in the environment can affect its behavior. They also contribute to the development of the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model used in both research and NWS operations.


The Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model is the product of a unique collaboration between the meteorological research and forecasting communities. Its level of sophistication is appropriate for cutting edge research, yet it operates efficiently enough to produce high resolution guidance for front-line forecasters in a timely manner. Working at the interface between research and operations, NSSL scientists have been major contributors to WRF development efforts and continue to provide leadership in the operational implementation and testing of WRF. The NSSL WRF generates daily, real-time 1–36 hour experimental forecasts at a 4km resolution of precipitation, lightning threat, and more.

View real-time data from WRF →


The NSSL COllaborative Model for Multiscale Atmospheric Simulation (COMMAS) is a 3D cloud model used to recreate thunderstorms for closer study. COMMAS is able to ingest radar data and lightning data from past events. Researchers use COMMAS to explore the microphysical structure and evolution of the storm and the relationship between microphysics and storm electricity. They also use COMMAS to simulate different phases of significant events, such as the early tornadic phase of the Greensburg, Kansas supercell that destroyed much of the town in 2004.

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COMMAS model output: This animation shows cloud edge (gray), 40 dbZ volume (brown), vertical vorticity (blue), lightning (white and yellow volumes), and surface simulated radar reflectivity and wind vectors. (Note: no audio track, no captioning.)


The Flooded Locations And Simulated Hydrographs Project (FLASH) was launched in early 2012 largely in response to the demonstration and real-time availability of high-resolution, accurate rainfall observations from the NMQ/Q2 project. FLASH introduces a new paradigm in flash flood prediction that uses the NMQ forcing and produces flash flood forecasts at 1-km/5-min resolution through direct, forward simulation. The primary goal of the FLASH project is to improve the accuracy, timing, and specificity of flash flood warnings in the US, thus saving lives and protecting infrastructure. The FLASH team is comprised of researchers and students who use an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to achieve the goal.