Reading The Skies – MYFARMLIFE.COM
Called the “quiet revolution,” the science of long-range weather forecasting continues to advance.
Reading The Skies – MYFARMLIFE.COMCalled the “quiet revolution,” the science of long-range weather forecasting continues to advance.
MyFarmLife.com – Since the dawn of agriculture, farmers have noted signs suggesting the next day’s weather, from the color of the clouds to the speed of the wind. Heat and rainfall arrived in seasonal patterns, which allowed crude projections about when to plant and harvest. Beyond such simple calculations, though, predicting the weather was often the domain of priests—and sometimes charlatans.
But at the turn of the 20th century, a few savvy thinkers realized the laws of physics, combined with the power of mathematics, offered a clearer picture. Over decades, the accuracy of “numerical weather prediction” has advanced slowly but steadily. In a recent paper in the scientific journal Nature, a group of meteorologists called it a “quiet revolution,” one that has, almost beyond notice, completely changed how farmers and others plan. Now, new legislation, signed by President Trump in 2017, is calling for improvements in forecasting, especially long-range forecasts, looking forward two weeks and beyond.
Numerical weather prediction depended on three historical breakthroughs. First, over centuries, new tools were invented—thermometers, barometers and so on—that replaced visual observations with hard-and-fast data. Then, equations were developed that describe changes in the atmosphere. Finally, computers emerged, which were able to process those equations at high speed. By the middle of the 20th century, short-term weather forecasts began to feel routine.
Still, advances have continued. New satellites and weather stations provide increasingly robust data, and computers grow more powerful. Generally, we gain one day of forecasting every 10 years. Today’s six-day outlook is about as precise as a five-day forecast was a decade ago.
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The article above is part of the SPRING 2019 ISSUE OF FARMLIFE MAGAZINE.