Tag Archives: weather forecast

90-day weather predictions are crap, no matter what Accuweather claims

Weather forecasts have gotten significantly better in recent years – not because we have a much better understanding of weather has gotten much better, but rather because advanced computers allow us to develop more complex models. You can generally predict weather for 2-3 days, and in some cases of up to 7-10 days. Anything that goes beyond that is simply not reliable, and 90 days? That’s little more than an educated guess.

This Accuweather Forecast for Ocean City, Maryland is laughable (via Dan Satterfield).

When AccuWeather started making 45 weather predictions, comments from professionals were on the negative side, to put it lightly. Basically, there was an uproar among meteorologists, because that’s simply not doable. The fact that a reliable company advertised an impossibility was disturbing, as Jason Samenow from the the Capital Weather Gang at the Washington Post said:

“[AccuWeather] is simply peddling a useless product to people who don’t know better”.

Dan Satterfield, Chief Meteorologist for the CBS affiliate WBOC TV and collaborator for the AGU blogosphere also agrees:

“These forecasts are actually even worse than the Farmer’s Almanac, since they give rain chances and temperatures for exact points months into the future!”

This kind of thing should be condemned, because it’s basically AccuWeather taking advantage of users who don’t know better. There’s plenty good local meteorologists and other solid organizations (like NOAA or the Met Office) which will give you solid forecasts – for a few days in advance. What AccuWeather – one of the world’s most relied on weather forecasters – is advertising is simply non-scientific and indefensible. So if you are using their services, please contact them and tell them about this.

Potential gap in weather satellite coverage could lead to (even) worse weather forecasts

If you think weather forecasts are bad enough as it is, then I’ve got some bad news for you – according to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the weather monitoring network is in a lot of trouble.

sandy hurricaine

The main concern is that U.S.-owned satellites are aging, and there are serious concerns about their replacements being ready in time. J. Marshall Shepherd, president of the American Meteorological Society and a professor at the University of Georgia in Athens, explained that the replacement system – Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) – has suffered from budget cuts, mismanagement, and political wrangling. All this internal struggle will likely lead to a gap in coverage.

According to the report:

“[..]potential gaps in environmental-satellite data beginning as early as 2014 and lasting as long as 53 months have led to concerns that future weather forecasts and warnings—including warnings of extreme events such as hurricanes, storm surges, and floods—will be less accurate and timely.”

It’s still not clear just how big this gap is going to be, but even the most optimistic estimates are not really optimistic.

“But even a 17-month gap, [the shortest estimate for a potential data gap], dramatically affects weather forecast ability, which could lead to challenges to protecting life and property,” Shepherd said.

The main concern is that without this information, big climatic events such as hurricane Sandy will be much harder to predict and model; their evolution and path will be all but impossible to predict, so this is a big deal. Hey, and the problem isn’t that the satellites didn’t last enough – not even close. They lasted (in some cases) way more than anticipated. The problem is that really, the replacements are not done yet.

NOAA is currently working on a plan to bridge any gap, should it occur, in data from their satellites. But as it stands now, the situation is pretty dire.

Via National Geographic