Costa Living: Weather forecasting has become so predictable
Long-range weather forecasting is getting so accurate that we can know the weather almost a season in advance.
It might read something like this: "After this blizzard passes, we will have a mild spring with unseasonably warm temperatures. On Memorial Day it will be cloudy in Indianapolis with temperatures in the 70s and a slight Northwest wind. The National Weather Service cannot yet predict whether Danica Patrick will qualify for the first pole position."
Remember reading about D-Day in WWII when Eisenhower had to delay the world’s greatest naval invasion because the daily weather forecast was uncertain? Now we can fly a weather drone into a combat area in Afghanistan and know if it’s cooler in a café in Kabul or under a tree across the street. We can then feed that information into our computers and predict the climate for the opium poppy-picking season.
Experts say the greater accuracy of weather forecasts can be attributed to huge advances in numerical meteorology, more real-time observational data and faster super computers.
We also hear a lot about the new atmospheric modeling software.
"Three of the five models show that a swarm of monarch butterflies in Brazil is creating an updraft that will cause a cascading effect of lifting moisture that will cause it to dump more than 4 inches of rain in Minneapolis next Wednesday."
Take the famous European model. So far, in the East Coast the European model has been the best predictor of inclement weather.
"The European model shows the first sleet pellets hitting the east door of the Pentagon on Thursday at 4:38 p.m."
I’d like to meet this European model and ask her why she predicts the weather outside her home town better than inside it. How come we never hear about blizzards in Athens and droughts in the lake country of England?
The new computer models are changing the way meteorology is presented. It used to be a crack forecaster would take the measurements from his own instrument shelter, get some reports from official observer stations in the forecast area, look out the window and then stand in front of a simple map and place high and low pressure symbols on it. That was it. That was the forecast for the next eight hours.
And you know, with the exception of missing storms like the Great Hurricane of 1938, these guys were pretty good. They also kept an element of suspense in all our lives and made the umbrella industry what it is today.
You just don’t know when you’re going to need one.
Peter Costa is a columnist for GateHouse Media. His latest book is a novel, "The Priest’s Gamble." It is available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.