What is ICON weather model and how it works

What is ICON weather model and how it works


The ICON weather model is one of the several major forecast models in the world. Actually, it is not one, but two different models: ICON7 and ICON13. In this post, you will learn about ICON model for sports and outdoors, its working principle and main features, and where to find the weather forecast by this model.

What is ICON weather forecast model?

The ICON (Icosahedral Nonhydrostatic) is a model created by the German Weather Service, or DWD (Deutscher Wetterdienst). There are two ICON models: ICON7 for Europe, and ICON13 for the world. So it is both regional and global weather forecast model.

In Europe, it is generally considered to be even more accurate than the ECMWF due to the better resolution.

The most important variables of the ICON are air density and virtual potential temperature, horizontal and vertical wind speed, humidity, cloud water, cloud ice, rain and snow.

Its small-scale part includes the COSMO model, which was fully integrated into the ICON in 2020.

The official website of the model is Dwd.de.

What are the main features of ICON weather model and how it works?

The ICON model has various resolutions depending on the model: ICON7 — 7 km, and ICON13 — 13 km. The resolution is the distance between two points of the weather model grid. Bigger resolutions of 50 to 10 km in size are usually deployed in relatively flat terrains, while mountain ranges require the nodes to be a lot closer to each other, usually 5, 2, or 1 km.

The forecast depth of ICON7 weather model is 4.7 days, and of ICON13 — 5.1 days. The depth of the weather forecast is the number of hours or days for which the forecast is made. As a rule, the lower the depth, the more accurate the forecast.

The ICON forecast step is 1 hour for both models. The forecast step is for how long you can see a forecast in the application or on a website. There are two main step types: 1 h and 3 h.

The ICON updates frequency is 4 times a day for both models, too. The update frequency of the forecast is the regular time interval after which new forecast data is received from the supercomputers. There are models like HRRR with 24 times a day updates, but in general, the frequency of the updates of weather models is 1, 2, or rather 4 times a day.

Let's sum up the main features of ICON model:

  • Resolution: 7 km (ICON7) and 27 km (ICON13)
  • Forecast depth: 4.7 days (ICON7) and 5.1 days (ICON13)
  • Step: 1 hour
  • Updates frequency: 4 times a day

Where to get the weather forecast from the ICON model in Windy.app?

The ICON weather model is also the main model in Windy.app among 10+ other models. In the app, the model has the same 7 km or 13 km resolution depending on the type of the model: Europe or global. To get a weather forecast from ICON:

1. Open your favorite or the nearest spot to your current location in the app from the Home screen or Wind and precipitation map. To see the nearest spots, allow the app to see your location in Settings.


For exampe, let's take Lo Stagnone kitesurfing spot in Italy:


2. Choose ICON7 or ICON13 in the slider under the Wind Rose:




3. Read the weather forecast from the ICON for your particular sport or outdoor activity. In Windy.app you can get the following weather parameters from the ICON:


  • Wind speed
  • Wind gusts
  • Wind direction (both cardinal and degrees)
  • Air temperature
  • Atmospheric pressure at sea level


In addition, you can have the general weather condition in the Lite Profile you can choose by an icon right to weather models: sunny, rainy, cloudy, etc. from the ICON. They are represented like this:



In Fish Pro Weather Profile, you can also get the useful Atmospheric pressure at sea level chart:



  • Wind speed
  • Wind gusts
  • Wind direction (both cardinal and degrees)
  • Air temperature
  • Atmospheric pressure at sea level
  • Clouds
  • Precipitation (rain)
  • Snow precipitation
  • Snow depth (in Snow Weather Profile)
  • Freezing level
  • Spot altitude
  • CAPE Index (in Air Weather Profile)


In addition, you can also have the general weather condition in same Lite Weather Profile: sunny, rainy, cloudy, etc. from the ICON. They are represented the same way:


Also you can get three useful charts in the same Fish Pro Profile and Expert Profile, choosing ICON13 model:

  • Freezing level chart
  • Rain and snow chart
  • Atmospheric pressure at sea level chart




4. Choose or delete one of these weather parameters using the Customization feature. That's how you will make your own custom weather profile in Windy.app:




5. Compare weather data from ICON models to other models in Windy.app using special Pro feature Compare Mode.


6. Compare ICON weather forecast accuracy with other weather models thanks to special Windy.app feature based on data directly from weather stations. The weather stations are always located on the same spot's screen:


7. Return to Wind and Precipitation Map to see the bigger wind picture in the region from the ICON13 model (but not ICON7).



Text: Windy.app team

Cover photo: Henry-fraczek / Unsplash

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