AUSTIN (KXAN) — Their names are Cactus and Dogwood. They are part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations weather supercomputing systems that got a significant upgrade in early August.

You may know their work from watching our weathercasts on KXAN. There are times when we show you the forecasts predicted by the U.S. Global Forecast System, or GFS for short. This is the American model of which our meteorologists speak.

Rich Segal spoke with David Michaud, the Director of the National Weather Service’s Office of Central Processing.

He spoke about how the 20% capacity expansion will help improve forecasts for years to come.

Upgrades to the GFS model will make it higher resolution. It will improve from 13 kilometers down to nine kilometers. Overall performance will allow for smaller-scale features to be seen and simulated.

A new Rapid Refresh Forecast System will help provide a higher measure of certainty in a single forecast thus leading to better decision making.

Dogwood is the supercomputer in Manassas, Virginia. Cactus is the supercomputer in Phoenix, Arizona. The computers serve as a primary and a backup providing a seamless operating transfer from one system to the other. They have replaced the previous supercomputers in Orlando, Florida and Reston, Virginia.

With the upgrade to both, the forecast system can now process 29 quadrillion calculations per second.

The upgrades to Cactus and Dogwood allowed NOAA’s National Hurricane Center to launch its new hurricane model called the Hurricane Analysis and Forecast Systems, HAFS, which was covered in a separate Q&A.