Weather forecasting is a constantly evolving profession. Historically it has purely been about making a best guess about what will happen with the weather. The primary focus has usually been on just trying to minimize errors in this guessing process.
Over time, rapid technological advancements, which have also helped lead to a large increase in weather observational data, have made this guessing game much more accurate. It’s like playing 20 Questions, where 20 years ago we had to start from scratch (though with a lot more questions to ask than just 20), but now we have most of the questions already answered before we even begin the guessing game – through increased data and modeling that we didn’t have 20 years ago. It makes the job of forecasting easier in terms of obtaining accuracy. A forecast 5 days out now is accurate about 80% of the time, while 20 years ago an accurate forecast 3- or 4-days out was notable. Even computer modeling at least occasionally forecasts highly extreme events well a week in advance. Further improvements are expected in the years to come as technology and observations continue to grow.
Thus, the job of a weather forecaster must evolve. Trends are expected to continue in 2023 toward forecasters increasingly communicating impacts and risks of the weather to consumers and businesses. Businesses increasingly are receiving forecasts and alerts tailored specifically to their operations. Forecasters are increasingly realizing the advantage of obtaining data science, computer science, and machine learning skills to bring this wider range of aptitudes to employers. These skills increase their ability to manage and create complex weather information to lead to critical forecasts and business decisions by clients. As a result, universities such as The University of Washington are also beginning to add opportunities for meteorology students to get these skills while still in college. Weather services, particularly those that are small and tailored for clients, are also expected to continue the trend toward answering the question of how they can apply weather forecasting and data to their clients’ business needs instead of just providing simple forecasts.
See a full article by Jim Foerster expanding on these trends in weather forecasting.
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