In the Journals: Forecasting

EarthzineClimate, Weather

Earthzine examined the ramifications of inaccurate forecasts in its most-recent mini theme. Here are other examples of crystal balls being more cloudy than clear.

A snowman at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Image Credit: National Park Service/Erin Whittaker

A snowman at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Image Credit: National Park Service/Erin Whittaker

What‰Ûªs the weather going to be like today? What‰Ûªs the climate going to be like for my kids?

We often check the forecast before we venture outside, or during times of deep thought. And we expect forecasts to be right. Or at least we hope they are. Or hope they aren‰Ûªt, in the case of bad weather during the weekend or dire predictions for a warming world.

This month, Earthzine has examined the ramifications of inaccurate forecasts, for weather and other phenomena. See ‰ÛÏThe Mercurial World of Weather‰Û and ‰ÛÏWeather, Risk, and Searching for Normal in a Rapidly Changing World.‰Û

Which leads us to a few other examples from publications on crystal balls being more cloudy than clear:

Changing Landscapes:åÊA Tel Aviv University study highlighted earlier this year by Science Daily quantified the causes for weather prediction inaccuracies. They‰Ûªre both human-made and natural, and dominant factors include land-use changes, topography, particles in the atmosphere and population density.

For example, a desert area bloomed in a short period of time after a national water pipeline crossed in Israel in the 1960s, affecting the generation of clouds, precipitation and temperature extremes. Existing forecasts couldn‰Ûªt keep up. The research was published in the journal Land.

A broken umbrella.  Image Credit: Quinn Dombrowski

A broken umbrella. Image Credit: Quinn Dombrowski

Learning from the Past:åÊA European Union-funded RAIN project is looking at how climate change may alter threats posed by extreme weather, and how warnings can be geared toward people who manage systems like roads and powerlines. Unfortunately, there‰Ûªs no perfect solution. A forecast may call for rain. But 15 minutes of heavy rain could wash out a road, while lighter rainfall spread out over a day wouldn‰Ûªt cause problems.

RAIN, due to be complete by 2017, is comparing events that caused infrastructure woes with weather forecasts to develop tools that filter data on extreme weather from historic data sets, and using climate models to estimate how risks may change in the future.

Cold Days Mean No Warming:åÊOf course that‰Ûªs not true. But you‰Ûªre likely to hear it repeated this summer, or winter: ‰ÛÏWhy is it so cold/hot if there‰Ûªs global warming/climate change?‰Û A study by Columbia University in New York examines why people‰Ûªs beliefs about climate change can be influenced by the weather.

Surveys found that the warmer the day, the more likely people were to be concerned about climate change and global warming. The results didn‰Ûªt change even after surveys included a paragraph on the difference between short-term weather and long-term climate change. The research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, also found that people seem to recall more cold days over the previous year if the current weather is cold. The same goes for hot days.

Up Next:åÊEarthzine is mulling a mini-theme on extinction, with items in the news like this: ‰ÛÏStanford scientists are very, very confident that we‰Ûªre about to enter a massåÊextinction.‰Û

If you have recommended items for the next ‰ÛÏIn the Journals,‰Û send them to jkart@earthzine.org.