Predicting the weather for tomorrow is not an easy task. Meteorologists, scientists, and mathematicians all over the world are constantly researching to come out with full-proof ways to predict weather conditions. Though in recent years, forecasting weather has become more accurate, thanks to supercomputers that are in use. They have made the job more accurate and a lot quicker. In this article, we will discuss how the advent of mathematics in weather forecasting has made it precise and reliable on a global scale. 

Weather forecasting and the use of supercomputers

Supercomputers are quickly gaining attention in the weather forecasting arena. They are very popular in the USA and are used extensively by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to predict near-perfect weather. The supercomputers are massive, each about the size of an average school bus, can process approximately 2.8 quadrillion mathematical calculations every second around the clock. 

Let us learn how a supercomputer comes out with near-perfect weather predictions every time:

  • Every day the supercomputers collect and bring together billions of earthly observations like air pressure, water levels, temperature, humidity, wind speed, and many more. These observations are essentially represented by numbers. 
  • They then plug these observations into a series of mathematical algorithms that signifies the atmosphere’s physical properties and predict the global weather. 
  • This kind of prediction using mathematics to depict the future state of the atmosphere is called numerical weather prediction. This is because of the technological advancements in computing and the progress of the global model system.

Weather forecasting models and how they function

From time immemorial, human beings have made several attempts to predict the weather conditions on a local or a global scale. But the nineteenth century has seen a deviation from informal weather predictions to an attempt to forecast the atmospheric conditions in a much more formal and accurate way. In recent years, this has resulted in sophisticated devices like supercomputers and technologically advanced prediction methods like numerical weather prediction. 

Here is a step-by-step guide on how modern weather forecasting models work:

  1. Data collection – Data collecting is one of the most crucial parts of weather forecasting. With the help of innovative devices, compressed monitoring networks, modern communication systems, and highly-trained observers, data collecting has become much more accurate and detailed in modern times. Data collection can be divided into two major parts:
  • Surface weather observations – These are fundamental data that can be taken manually by a trained weather observer. It is used to issue meteorological warnings (in case of any upcoming calamity) or for climatological purposes to predict weather conditions. 
  • Upper-air weather observations – Radiosondes generally obtain this data on weather balloons or aircraft, radar, and satellites. They accumulate data such as measurements of humidity, temperature, and wind. 
  1. Data assimilation and analysis – During this process, the information received from data collection is used in combination with the most recent prediction by a numerical model. This is used to yield a three-dimensional depiction of temperature, wind, and moisture known as a meteorological analysis. 
  2. Numerical weather prediction – This kind of forecasting is the most modern version and is used widely to produce precise and reliable weather reports. The most used weather data processing systems for the two categories of numerical models are:
  • Global models – Some examples are Global Forecast System (GFS), Global Environmental Multiscale Model (GEM), European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), and others.
  • Regional models – Some examples of regional models are The North American Mesoscale Model (NAM), the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model, the Advanced Region Prediction System (ARPS), and others.

Thus, the entire decision we make every day, whether to carry an umbrella with us to work or not, we can all give a big thanks to technological advancements of numerical weather prediction models. 

Some important applications of the numerical weather prediction

The application of numerical weather prediction in modern meteorology has been, undoubtedly, massively successful. It not only predicts global or regional weather conditions but much more than that. 

Let us see some of the other important applications of numerical weather prediction:

  1. Wind gust forecast – Wind gust forecast is essential in local weather news. It can impact daily public life and affect the operation of businesses like construction work or commercial fishing. Forecasting a strong wind gust can save lives, properties, and trade in many areas, even at a short notice period. 
  2. Forecasting air turbulence – Airports across the globe depend on precise weather forecasts to function routinely and safely. Any variations in air pressure can generate unpredictable air turbulence that can end up being fatal for many. To prevent any such mishaps, airport authorities rely on the accuracy of numerical weather prediction. 
  3. Tropical cyclone forecasting – The data provided by the numerical weather prediction is crucial for tropical cyclone warnings worldwide. Every year, numerous storm warnings are caused across various tropical and subtropical regions, thanks to numerical weather prediction. These early warnings not just prevent life loss, but also curbs extensive property damage and aids in swift recovery. 

From ancient times to today’s modern world, the technological advancements in the weather/climate department have been massive. Weather forecast is much more than a journalist reading the day’s weather forecast on television. The more you learn, you will find the world of mathematics and weather intertwined for the greater good. The use of complex mathematics in weather forecasting has been instrumental in predicting good, bad, and worst-case weather scenarios all over the world. Looking at how far the entire meteorological system has come today, we all have mathematics to be thankful for. 

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