Weather: Is Advanced Analytics In Play At All?

As this was being written, the first potential hurricane of 2013 to potentially affect the U.S., Karen, was brewing in the Gulf of Mexico south of New Orleans.  It was predicted to either get stronger and transition from tropical storm to hurricane, or maybe not.  It was projected to make landfall near New Orleans, skip over the lower Mississippi River delta and then head for the Florida Panhandle, or maybe not.  Where I live in Northwest Georgia, we were expected to get some rain by Saturday even or Sunday morning, or maybe not.


If you’ve ever looked at the weather forecast a few days ahead and planned a family outing for the predicted sunshine and warm and then had to cancel because of rainfall and cold, it would make you wonder if weather science has come very far since Ben Franklin sent horseback riders west of the Appalachians to ride back and give him the next day’s forecast for his newspaper.


I’m not picking on weather forecasters here, the “art” has improved quite a bit in my lifetime–radar certainly helped by letting forecasters look out a ways toward where their area’s weather usually come.  However, forecasting still seems to be a largely hit-or-miss activity, especially for the short-term.  Of course, it doesn’t do very well for the long-term either, global temperatures were supposed to continue to rise over the last 14-15 years and they haven’t.  And the Arctic ice pack was supposed to be gone this year.  It isn’t, it’s 60% bigger than it was last year.


I know weather forecasting uses probability tables and a lot of other tools, but it still seems very much more art than science.  Maybe advanced analytics could help?  Are they in use?

–Warren B. Causey

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