Can we think of life without our daily dose of weather forecast? Not really. This integral part of our daily lives can be defined as the scientific prediction of the atmospheric conditions for a particular place and time.
Humans have always tried to predict the weather. History says that in 650 BC, the Babylonians analyzed the weather from cloud patterns. In about 340 BC, Aristotle described weather patterns in Meteorologica. The Chinese were into weather forecast since 300 BC. Ancient methods involved examining the sky, the sunset, the clouds etc.
The invention of the telegraph in 1837 marked the beginning of modern methods. The science of meteorology, which greatly developed during the 20th century added more accuracy to the forecasts. Then arrived the concept of Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) in 1922. Only after the development of more advanced computers (around the 1970s), that NWP became applicable in weather predictions.
Today the method consists of the following steps:
This involves gathering information about atmospheric pressure, temperature, wind speed, wind direction, humidity, precipitation etc. The World Meteorological Organization regulates the entire process worldwide. Important components of this process are weather satellites that ensure more accuracy and global range.
This process involves the combined analysis of the information collected and a numerical model’s latest forecast for that same time span. The result is a meteorological analysis that includes a three dimensional depiction of the dispersal of temperature, moisture and wind.
Numerical weather prediction (NWP)
NWP is computer forecasting of the atmosphere and involve supercomputers.
Model output post processing
This step involves the fine-tuning of basic data before it is declared. This process may take into account statistical methods or comparing and concluding from various other numerical forecasts.
Forecast presentation to end-user
This is the last step of the process. Here the conclusions are presented for application in various spheres. The major sectors where weather forecasts are vital are:
- Public information: The media is today the main informer. The Internet too is a vast resource now.
- Air traffic: Forecasts are vital to the daily safety and operations of the aviation industry.
- Marine: Safety of water transport and commerce is also dependant on weather forecast about wind direction, speed, wave periodicity and heights, tides, and precipitation. The information is transmitted in codes to ship pilots via radio, for instance the MAFOR (Marine Forecast).
- Utility sector: Electricity and gas service providers depend on weather changes to determine demand and supply. For instance, in severe cold there will be a greater demand of heaters, while in summers for air conditioning.
- Private sector: Many companies are now analyzing consumer patterns with the help of weather forecast and hence influencing their profits and losses. A common instance is that of superstores, which vary their stocks based on consumer behavior in varying weather conditions.
- Military purposes: Those on the warfront require pre-flight conditions, as well as forecasts for resource protection at military installations, naval traffic, air force operations. Coast guard weather forecast is also a part of this application.
The science of weather forecasting has come a long way since the days of the Babylonians. However, it remains a challenge still today to predict nature accurately to prevent property and life loss. Weather Forecast is an evolving science.