Why Aren’t Weather Forecasts Always Accurate?

The weather is something that we think about on a daily basis. It’s one of the last things we check before going to bed so we know what to expect, we bring it up in small talk with strangers, and we plan our days and trips based on it. For this reason, we rely on weather forecasts to be accurate, because nobody wants to spend a lot of money to plan on going to a picnic or a baseball game that ends up getting washed out.

However, we find that the weather forecasts aren’t always accurate. In fact, sometimes they’re very wrong, and the first person that we blame is the local meteorologist. That shouldn’t be the case, however, as the data that they get is the best possible guess that anybody could reasonably make. After all, they’re trying to predict the weather for up to two weeks and things can change in an instant.

So why is it that weather forecasts aren’t always accurate? It turns out that there are several explainable reasons, and hopefully these make it so that your local weatherperson gets less hate mail.

1. Too Broad of a Range

Simply put, weather forecasters are doing the people a service when they give their best predictions for the weather over longer stretches of time. Weather forecasts about 24 hours ahead of time are almost always going to be completely accurate because patterns have already been well-formed and are going in certain directions.

That’s not the case when a forecaster is telling people what to expect in 10 to 14 days. Instead, those are complete guesses based on predictive models and past weather data on that particular day in history. 

That’s why when there’s unseasonable cold weather in the winter, the 10-day forecast might say that it’s going to be much, much warmer, but that might not happen. Experts say that everything that they say in a five-day window is typically going to be what you can truly expect.

2. Weather is Unpredictable

There are a lot of sports betting “experts” out there that say they’re the best to listen to because they’re the most accurate. Well, even the best of the best are only accurate about 60 percent of the time, and that makes plenty of money. People expect weather forecasters to be perfect, however, which really isn’t fair.

The weather can be just as unpredictable as a basketball game, especially in certain climate zones. The weather forecast in San Diego, California is going to be easy to predict since it’s sunny almost every day and stays in a certain temperature range. The same cannot be said for a place like Detroit, Michigan.

Flatter areas are also more difficult to predict as wind speeds vary greatly in these regions. Places like Kansas are notoriously flat and can have wide ranges of temperatures, winds, and more. This is why the part of the country is known as “tornado alley.”

3. It’s a Computer’s Fault

The people that you see on the local news aren’t actually predicting the weather themselves based on what they think. Again, leave that to the sportscasters. Instead, these meteorologists use a computer model to help them predict the weather. As we all know, computers are amazing, but they aren’t always accurate.

There are also different computer models that are used, with some more accurate than others. The United States alone has several, with the consensus combining all of these. The National Weather Service uses Hewlett-Packard supercomputers to help predict weather models, and they keep adding to the computer count to make things more accurate. 

With that said, weather forecasts are actually much more predictable than they were 50, 20, and even 10 years ago. As we know, people demand perfection from everything in life, and that includes weather forecasts. During the 1950s, people didn’t get 24-hour channels dedicated solely to weather, and their complaints about the “weatherman” were confined only to written letters and maybe the occasional heckle on the streets, a la Nicolas Cage in the 2005 film “The Weather Man”.

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