For the first time since 2000, the National Weather Service will significantly upgrade its technological capacity.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will spend about $45 million to triple its computational ability in January, and then again by the end of the year.  And as a result: the weather people predict greater accuracy in their forecasts.  

It seems ironic that the people in the business of making predictions would add another conjecture to an already imprecise line of work, but they have done just that.

Think of how different things would be if they were right and future weather patterns could be determined with relative accuracy.  People would have more notice in emergency situations.  Concerts and weddings would no longer be “rained out” because they could have moved indoors with proper planning.  Social events could be arranged around suitable weather: no sledding days scheduled without snow nor pool parties in a storm.  The guesswork would be out of the age-old question as to whether to carry an umbrella or to wear boots.

I think people would be more accepting of the weather, whatever it may be, if they knew the forecast with relative certainty in adequate time to plan for it.  I hate winter, not so much for the cold, but because it is a season of plans in limbo.  You never know what the weather will “allow” you to do or how much time it will take to do it due to travel restrictions and snow.

This month, we enter a new age where enhanced computational power tries to predict the next moves of weather patterns.  As the old commercial said: “You can’t fool Mother Nature,” but I’ll bet even with the 5,000 trillion calculations/second, she can still fool us.

— beth triplett

Source:  Prediction: better accuracy by Erik Hogstrom in the Telegraph Herald, January 11, 2015, p. 8B, 10B.

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