Why Weather Predictions are often Wrong

How would you like to be paid to make guesses, even if those guesses are wrong well over 50 percent of the time? That is exactly what is going on.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, produces the weather forecasts in the US. With literally thousands of people working for them, and using some of the most expensive and sophisticated computers and satellites in the world, forecasts are still wrong a majority of the time.

There are reasons for this. I once told a meteorologist that I’d figured out how they got their forecasts. I said that they get ten meteorologists in a room, and ask how many think it is going to rain. If four raise their hands, they post a 40 percent chance of rain. He laughed, then said that it wasn’t that far off, and might be more accurate.

What they actually do is this: They map the weather pattern, the cloud cover, the barometric pressure, the wind speed and direction, and so forth. Then they try to match it with similar patterns that were recorded in the past. From this, they receive the forecast. For instance, if a given weather pattern and other information leaded to precipitation 40 percent of the time in the past, there is a 40 perdent chance of precipitation.

The problem is that the weather patterns, winds, and so on, are constantly changing. Further, they are changed by the terrain, other weather patterns coming from different directions, and even constructions built by man. The result is that short term predictions are not accurate, but the longer the term of the prediction, the less accurate it becomes. They now do a good job of predicting hurricanes and tornadoes, but even in that category, they are lacking, especially long term.

For instance, 2006 was figured to be the heaviest hurricane season on record for the US. Instead, it was one of the lightest. 2007 was also supposed to be a very bad hurricane year, and so far (knock on wood) it is still very light.

Despite the man power, computers, and know how, one of the most shocking truths to most of us is that the Old Farmer’s Almanac is and has been more accurate for many years than NOAA, despite a much smaller budget and far fewer tools. This says something, doesn’t it?

Please, I beg of you, give me a job where I can make good money, using the most sophisticated of equipment, and can still be wrong most of the time, without losing my job.