Weather Forecasting: Is it better to toss a coin?

Why Is Weather Forecasting Always Wrong?  Have you asked yourself the same question? Have you cursed the weather forecasting when you were expecting a sunny day and then rained? Does this picture looks familiar?


Once I was in Toronto when the forecasting for the other day was a blizzard. Basically, lots of snow. When that day finally arrived we had half of the expected snow. I friend of mine said: “It is the government. They say more snow will fall than what is expected to scare the people.” Well at that time my knowledge about weather and atmospheric science was minimal. I did not know what to think. Is my friend right? Is the government really doing this? What is the real reason behind? Are the guys responsible for the weather forecasting incompetents? A few years ago i did a seminar giving a brief explanation of how hard is to predict weather. Unfortunately the slides do not come with detailed information. Thus, to answer some questions about weather forecasting I will do a series (not consecutive) of posts explaining why weather is so hard to predict. In addition I will try to give an overview of  how it is predicted. I will add the posts under the category ¨Weather Forecasting”.

To explain the whole weather forecasting problem it is really hard, almost impossible. For example:

Despite the detailed knowledge about precipitation including the complete hydrological cycle (evaporation, water vapour, convection, condensation, clouds, soil moisture, groundwater and the origin of rivers), predicting precipitation accurately is still one of the most difficult tasks in meteorology (Kuligowski:1998)

I know the paper is old but the problem persists. Even in 2014 precipitation still a major forecasting challenge. Some of the reasons are:

  • The chaotic nature of the atmosphere and the complexity of the processes that are involved in precipitation
  • The difficulties of precipitation measurements including problems with rain gauges, radar and satellites
  • The limited temporal and spatial scales of numerical weather prediction (NWP) models?

My goal is to provide information about the most important parts of the weather forecasting. Of course at the end of the posts, if I am missing something please let me know but I hope my posts will be enough to anyone know that the scientists are doing a really good job and they are really hard work guys and if they are missing is not because conspiracy or incompetence. It is because the problem is really hard.


Journal references:

Kuligowski, R., & Barros, A. (1998). Localized Precipitation Forecasts from a Numerical Weather Prediction Model Using Artificial Neural Networks Weather and Forecasting, 13 (4), 1194-1204 DOI: 10.1175/1520-0434(1998)0132.0.CO;2


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