Why Have Weather Forecasts Become Less Accurate?

The decrease in flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic has made  weather forecasts less accurate, as they rely on data collected by commercial aircraft.
The decrease in flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic has made weather forecasts less accurate, as they rely on data collected by commercial aircraft.

How do meteorologists forecast the weather? A lot has to do with determining weather patterns across the globe, using airplanes, buoys, cruise ships, weather balloons and ground stations to gather data such as air temperature, relative humidity, air pressure, and wind to create computer models.

However, after the COVID-19 pandemic struck last spring, the amount of air and sea travel dropped off precipitously, and forecasts suffered. A 2020 study found that the “accuracy of surface meteorology forecast in March-May 2020 decreased remarkably,” mainly due to the drop-off in commercial air travel and thus the lack of data collection, Lancaster University researchers said.

Struggling to predict the weather:

  • Misjudging the high or low temperature on any particular day is one thing, but when the lack of data affects meteorologists’ ability to predict hurricane and tornado formation, lives can be put at risk.
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  • During the pandemic, meteorologists have been at a significant disadvantage in trying to determine air temperatures. Weather balloons can help to fill in the gaps, but depending on buoys for temperatures over water can be iffy.

  • The study authors warned that the accuracy could get worse as the pandemic goes on. “Further worsening of weather forecasts may be expected,” explained researcher Ying Chen. “This could handicap early warning of extreme weather and cause additional hardship for daily life in the near future."

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    • The decrease in flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic has made  weather forecasts less accurate, as they rely on data collected by commercial aircraft.
      The decrease in flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic has made weather forecasts less accurate, as they rely on data collected by commercial aircraft.