Meteorologists often hear folks say that they are the only people that get paid whether or not they are right. In reality, weather forecasts have improved immensely over the years and a five-day forecast now is as accurate as the two-day forecasts were a couple of decades ago. This is due to improvements in computers, improved forecast models and a big increase in the amount of data that is being used in the predictions, especially from satellites. A BBC article from last week describes some of the changes that have been made to weather prediction and how it has impacted sales, agriculture, and hazard prevention, to name a few examples. You can read the article here.
One of the reasons for the improvement in weather forecasts is the increasing use of more sophisticated computer models which provide predictions at much finer scales than past models. This will allow for increased accuracy in local forecasts, which could improve the ability to predict timing of severe weather, for just one example. You can read the NOAA article about one new forecast model here.
At the same time, predictions of climate variations on a seasonal scale are also allowing people to make decisions which can save them money. The Guardian published a story on Tuesday which showed that climate predictions for a severe drought in Columbia saved farmers’ livelihoods by encouraging them not to plant rice in what was expected to be a desperately dry season. Scientists from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture used analyses of climate variability and trends to determine the drought was coming and would severely reduce yields of rice due to water shortages and were able to convince farmers to delay planting until the second season, when water resources were expected to improve. That saved the farmers the loss of seed and other inputs in what would have been a losing season. You can read this story here.