DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – We all know the weather can be different just a few miles down the road, but it’s what the land looks like down that road that researchers at Duke are focusing on.

“How do all of those different parts, or different landscapes come together to influence the weather,” says Dr. Nathaniel Chaney, assistant professor of Hydrology at Duke.

Most weather models take into account certain weather or atmospheric conditions, but not differences in land.

So researchers at Duke ran a forecast model for nearly two years that has a resolution size of 100 meters.

Our best high resolutions models have a size of 3,000 meters or 3 kilometers. By using such a small scale, they found small changes in land, like from forest to non-forested, or urban to rural, impact what kind of weather we have.

“These small-scale features that have been seen in a lot of very idealized studies in the past, we see them here using much more realistic land surfaces and much more realistic wind conditions,” explains Jason Simon, a post-doctorate student who ran the model.

Now that we know these small differences in land do impact our weather, the next step is using this data to improve our current weather models.

“What the LES simulations are doing is basically helping us look at what really goes on at those small-scale processes,” Dr. Andrew Bragg, an assistant professor of Fluid Dynamics at Duke explained. “And then that can help us figure out what are good parameterizations that can be used in the operational models so that they capture all the stuff that’s really going on there.”

And the stuff going on can help improve our weather models, and help can us all know better what to expect.

There’s a lot more to this study than what we could include here. To read the study yourself, click here.