The future of weather forecasting
However, I’m not a person who pays a lot of attention day to day to climate change.
This split does make some sense. But as we discuss on the podcast, we can’t really separate them as much as we used to do.
Still, for something that interests so many, there are a lot of misconceptions about weather forecasts.
I cover a lot of what goes into the forecasts in the podcast (so tune in), but one big misconception is how accurate they are. While people love to rag on meteorologists who get it wrong, it turns out, forecasts are better than they’ve ever been.
They’ve gotten a lot more accurate.
As New York Metro Weather’s John Homenuk told me, there are “amazing minds working on producing these weather models. They’ve gotten so detailed. I keep mentioning (that) we can predict individual thunderstorms, things like that. (An) incredible technology boom has helped us a ton.”
One quick way to know forecasts have gotten better is to examine hurricanes and see how the error rate in terms of nautical miles for these storms has declined.
That improved accuracy has saved countless lives.
Put another way, your local meteorologist has gotten really good — thanks to weather models and a better understanding of weather patterns.
That said, we’ll probably never achieve perfect accuracy.
Another potential problem is climate change. While climate and weather are different, the former may be having an impact on near-term forecasting accuracy.
What they found was a “pretty systematic relationship” between temperature changes and how far out you can accurately predict the weather. Sheshadri noted that we could make more accurate long-term forecasts “if the Earth was very much cooler.” As the Earth warms, “it’s the other way around, and this window of accurate weather prediction narrows.”
According to the Stanford study, you lose a day of accurate precipitation forecasts for every rise of 3 degrees in Celsius (5.4 degrees in Fahrenheit).
Here’s the bottom line: Those who love weather forecasting but don’t discuss climate change should understand the latter’s impact. Weather forecasting may not be as accurate as it could be because of climate change.