Weather forecasting improves as weather events intensify

Weather forecasting improves as weather events intensify

Seven days ahead

Weather forecasting has improved massively. 40 years ago meteorologists could only predict weather for the next two or three days. Today weather can be predicted reliably for seven days. But forecasters also give monthly and seasonal predictions. These can be tremendously important for agriculture. If a severe storm is predicted ahead of time, farmers can prepare.

Weather forecasting improves as weather events intensify

Models and mathematics

Weather is forecast with the help of supercomputers that predict the weather using complex mathematical models and current weather conditions. Some centers for weather prediction take account of up to 900 million global points. For the prediction, the world is split up into grids with grid points spaced 9 km apart.

Weather forecasting improves as weather events intensify

Pooling data across borders

In 1975 several European states decided to share their data to improve the forecast. They set up the “European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecast” (ECMWF). Today the centre has 22 member states, 12 co-operating countries and some of the world's most modern supercomputers.

Weather forecasting improves as weather events intensify

Taking more elements into account

Roughly a year and a half ago the centre expanded its weather models. Before, they were based on atmospheric predictions. Now the forecasts take more elements into account, such as ocean and land data. This makes them more reliable. With the weather changing due to climate change, forecasts are changing too. Scientists still cannnot link climate change and weather change exactly.

Weather forecasting improves as weather events intensify

Life or death predictions

Scientists are sure that climate change intensifies extreme weather events. Heatwaves are even hotter, hurricanes are more intense. That means weather forecasting today is also about saving lives and protecting property. If the forecasts are more exact and data is available faster, people can prepare better for severe weather events.

Weather forecasting improves as weather events intensify

Very hard to predict

Thunder and lightning are very hard to forecast and becoming more intense. It is impossible to predict exactly where lightning will strike. However, this might well improve. The ECMWF is working on predicting lightning within a 50 km range.

Weather forecasting improves as weather events intensify

More time to prepare

In general, weather forecasting will continue to improve. By 2025 reliable weather forecasts might cover 10 days instead of the seven that are possible today. That could well mean three extra days to prepare for storms and extreme weather.

Since satellites started recording weather data in the 1970s forecasting has taken a huge step forward. It isn't just about sun or rain any more. It's about giving people more time to prepare for extreme weather events.