Forecasters find new formula for long-range weatherScience and culture
Meteorologists believe they will finally be able to give accurate long-range weather predictions after British scientists developed the world’s best long-term forecasting model, it has emerged.
The breakthrough is expected to have a major impact on the economy, with power companies able to anticipate energy demands and hospitals better prepared for weather-related illnesses and accidents.
Until now, the difficulty of predicting the weather far into the future with any degree of accuracy has defeated even powerful supercomputers.
Experts claim they perform only slightly better than chance when it comes to predicting whether a winter will be mild, severe, freezing, snowy or stormy.
The latest British model, which simulates the climate on a more detailed scale, was shown to be 62 per cent accurate at giving a broadbrush prediction of winter conditions when it was tested on 20 years of retrospective data, the Times reports.
Professor Adam Scaife, who leads the Met’s monthly to decadal prediction research team, said: “This will have enormous benefits for the economy and society and means that planners can prepare well ahead for winter.”
It will mean retailers can rely on predictions to make sure that season-appropriate stock is on the shelves at the right time, while insurers will be able to estimate winter storm damage risks
Met Office scientists estimate that the model's results will improve to give 80 per cent accuracy, ensuring an end to embarrassing failures in forecasting such as the “barbecue summer” of 2009 which turned out to be a washout.
The following year the weather experts scrapped their headline seasonal predictions amid complaints that they were too inaccurate to be of any use to the public.
The results from the new British model, due to be announced in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, suggest that, for winters at least, forecasters have overcome some of the challenges of making predictions up to three months ahead.